ANAHEIM - It was one of the funnier moments in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry squirted water into one of Jeff Carter's hockey gloves, which was left on top of the boards by the Kings bench, unattended, during a commercial break. The Los Angeles Kings centre appeared unamused and voiced displeasure to a nearby linesman.
"Just trying to, I guess, get under people's skin," said Perry with a shrug when asked about the prank he pulled in Game 1 of the series. "Just try to get people off their game."
But so far in the first-ever playoff showdown between the NHL's two southern California teams it has been the Kings, who have gotten the Ducks off their game as Perry, a 43-goal scorer in the regular season, and Hart Trophy nominee Ryan Getzlaf have failed to make a major impact.
"Him and I put a lot of pressure on each other and on ourselves and it's our responsibility to get the team going, to produce and we haven't done that," Perry admitted.
So far it has been the Kings top line featuring Selke Trophy nominee Anze Kopitar, which has gotten the best of the Ducks dynamic duo.
"In the playoffs you have to be better than the guy across from you," Getzlaf said. "If he's playing great you got to be better than that. That's how you find a way to win."
"If you know Ryan, he puts a lot of onus on himself," said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, "and he knows he's the leader of this group and when he's going to his best [level] then we usually have a good result. He feels he needs to be a little bit better, he's probably correct."
Post-game on Monday, Getzlaf said he was "ticked off" by how the series has unfolded. And the Ducks captain made it clear on Tuesday that the anger he felt in the moments after the loss has yet to subside.
"Yeah, I'm still mad. I want to win and when we don't win I get mad. That's just [my] nature I guess."
And while Getzlaf believes he can be better he certainly doesn't shoulder all the blame for the bind his team is in.
"It's not all about me. I'm not going to go out and win Game 3 by myself that's for sure. The story of our season has been our depth and our lineup and we need, from top to bottom, everybody pushing."
The Kopitar line, which also features captain Dustin Brown and sniper Marian Gaborik, is likely to be matched up against the Getzlaf unit over the next two games as Kings head coach Darryl Sutter will have the advantage of last change at the Staples Center.
But Anaheim's lack of success isn't about one matchup. The Kings have tightened up all over the ice and are playing the same suffocating style that led to a Cup two years ago.
"They didn't win the Jennings Trophy just by luck," said Boudreau. "They're a good defensive team."
The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the NHL in the regular season (2.05 goals per game). Los Angeles also led the league in hits.
"The system [they play] is really basic," Boudreau explained. "There's nothing really extravagant with what Darryl's doing. They just do it well. They got the right personnel, they've been through the wars, they've won the Cup before with that group and they know how to do it.
"Quite frankly, it's the same system we use. It's layers of blocking, layers of having to go through guys when you come into [their] zone and the last six games they've been very good at it."
Cracking the Kings sound defensive structure is one issue, but the bigger issue for the Ducks has been Jonathan Quick, who has reverted to his Conn Smythe form after a shaky start in the first round series against the San Jose Sharks. Quick has a .961 save percentage during the Kings current six game winning streak.
"Yeah, he's played well, but we haven't played our game," said Perry. "We just have to be more determined."
Quick turned aside 36 of the 37 shots he faced on Monday night with the only puck to beat him deflecting in off defenceman Jake Muzzin's skate.
"He's seeing a lot of pucks," said Ducks forward Patrick Maroon, who was credited with Anaheim's lone goal in Game 2, which came during a four-on-three power play. "That's one of the problems here. Five-on-five we got to get in front of the net, get in his eyes, create more traffic and get in his head a little bit, because we're not doing that. We're an outside team right now. We got to crash and bang, throw pucks at his feet and go to the net."
Jonas Hiller, who faced just 16 shots Monday night, suggests Anaheim's current approach is actually helping Quick build even more confidence.
"I know from experience that those are the nice games to play if you face a lot of shots and are able to see most of them," said the Ducks goalie.
"Quick's just playing a little better than I am right now. I think their first line is just a little bit better than our [top] line. We got to find a way to change that."
Scoring goals wasn't a problem for the Ducks during the regular season as they led the NHL in that category (3.21 per game). Perry finished second in the league in goal scoring behind only Alexander Ovechkin while Getzlaf posted a career-high 31 goals. Ten Ducks had 10 goals or more. So why has the potent Anaheim attack, become so punchless? It appears the challenge at the moment is more mental than physical.
"I think guys are almost trying to do too much, myself included, trying maybe to push it a little too hard and making it unnatural," said Matt Beleskey, who has two goals and two assists in four playoff games this spring while skating alongside Perry and Getzlaf.
"The Kings are doing a pretty good job of boxing guys out, but it's timing. You got to bear down and get there."
Dropping the first two games at home can shake the confidence of a team. But Boudreau downplayed the importance of home-ice advantage. He pointed out that the games between the Kings and Ducks have been close all season whether they're played at the Honda Center, Staples Center or even Dodger Stadium.
"To me, these games whether we play them here or frigging any stadium you want, it's going to be a tough game or a one-goal game and it's two teams just battling really hard," Boudreau said.
"The difference is they scored an empty-net goal and we didn't. That's the whole difference in the series right now."
Anaheim will need to win on enemy ice at least twice to keep their season alive. The Kings only have one regulation loss at the Staples Center in their last nine games there, but the Ducks don't see this as a daunting task.
"It's tough to win in this building too and they did it twice," said Beleskey standing in the Ducks dressing room. "Definitely not going to be that hard for us."
The Ducks believe one win can turn this series on its head. After all, the Kings stormed back against the Sharks in the first round. The Chicago Blackhawks erased an 0-2 deficit against the St. Louis Blues. Comebacks are all the rage in the NHL these days.
"We're a confident group," said Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy. "We know we can beat this team. We feel we've had two pretty even games ... I truly believe that playoffs is all about momentum and right now we need to put a seed of doubt in their mind. And if we win that first game, if it's 2-1 and we have momentum, we can do that.
"As soon as we win one they remember that we're a good team, we remember that we're a good team and it puts doubt in their mind, but it all starts with us."