The Anaheim Ducks clinched their third Pacific Division title in team history Wednesday night by beating the San Jose Sharks 5-2 at Honda Center.
Anaheim will face one of the two Western Conference wild card teams in the opening round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting next week, while the Sharks will be matched up against the Los Angeles Kings in round one.
Having already set a franchise record for wins in a season with 51, the Ducks entered the night just three points in front of the Sharks with three games remaining in the regular season.
Sharks defenseman Jason Demers opened the night’s scoring late in the first period when his wrist shot from the right circle beat Ducks goalie John Gibson. The goal was the first Gibson had conceded in his NHL career after shutting out the Vancouver Canucks Monday in his league debut.
Down one, the Ducks wasted little time leveling up the score. Streaking down the left boards, Ducks right winger Corey Perry sped his way past Sharks defenseman Justin Braun and slid a backhander under the pads of goalie Antti Niemi with just seconds remaining in the first period.
In the second, the Ducks and Sharks traded goals from Ducks left winger Patrick Maroon and San Jose center Logan Couture to knot the score once again, this time at two.
But Maroon found the net a second time midway through the period before left winger Matt Beleskey’s toe drag and shot all in one motion put the Ducks up 4-2.
Right winger Jakob Silvferbeg put the game out of reach late in the third period with an empty net goal to make it 5-2, as the Honda Center crowd recognized their 2014 Pacific Division Champion Ducks with a standing ovation as the game’s final minute ticked down.
As the division champs, Anaheim now waits to see which of the three teams vying for the two Western Conference wild card spots they’ll play in the first round of the playoffs.
Playing over 1,500 miles away in Calgary, the Kings’ playoff picture became much clearer following the Ducks’ win.
Despite losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Calgary Flames, the Kings, locked into the division’s third spot, now know they’ll travel to San Jose to face the Sharks in their first game of the playoffs.
The Ducks and Kings will face off for the final time in the regular season on Saturday at Staples Center in the penultimate game of the season for both teams.
Anaheim leads the season series with the Kings three games to one including a 3-0 win outdoors at Dodgers Stadium on Jan. 25.