No previous edition of the Freeway Faceoff had ever meant less. The state of Southern California hockey has rarely been lower.
The Anaheim Ducks still moved into a long summer with an emphatic win over their rivals.
Korbinian Holzer scored his first NHL goal in just over two years, Sam Steel added a short-handed goal and Anaheim finished its disappointing season with a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.
Daniel Sprong, Carter Rowney and Jakob Silfverberg also scored, and John Gibson made 44 saves as the Ducks earned their first victory in four games against the Kings this season.
The rivalry win provided scant satisfaction for Anaheim. Both of these teams are missing the Stanley Cup playoffs in the same season for the first time since 2004, and the Ducks missed the postseason for the first time in seven years despite 11 wins in their final 17 games.
"That's the hardest thing in sports," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said of their last few weeks. "We've gotten used to playing in the playoffs and having those stretch drives late where we're competing for spots. When you're out that early, and that far behind, that's a tough way to play hockey at the end of the year."
Rookie Max Jones had two assists in his first career multi-point game for the Ducks (35-37-10), who needed that late surge to finish with 80 points, matching the franchise's lowest total in a full season since 2004.
"We've mostly been prepared for this moment for a few weeks, but we've been playing pretty well lately," said Silfverberg, who set a career high with his 24th goal. "We're kind of past the point of being angry. It's been a good ride for a while here, but that doesn't change the feeling."
Michael Amadio and Carl Grundstrom scored and Jack Campbell stopped 28 shots for the Kings, who have the NHL's second-worst record with one game to play — one point fewer than New Jersey.
The rivals largely played a clean game until the final minutes, when a handful of prolonged scraps broke out and led to 42 combined penalty minutes.
"Regardless of wherever everyone is in the standings, you know it's always going to be an emotional battle," Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. "It's always going to be a revved-up environment. That's what it was tonight."
Although the Kings have one game left, this local derby was a simultaneous farewell to a season that ended a seven-year SoCal hockey renaissance. The Kings have won two Stanley Cup titles and made three Western Conference finals since 2011, while the Ducks won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and reached two conference finals in the same stretch.
After both teams were swept out of the first round in last spring's playoffs, Los Angeles struggled from the start this season, finally unable to use its grit and defensive acumen to compensate for years of offensive stagnation.
Anaheim was firmly in the playoff race until the week before Christmas, when injuries and a mystifying goal drought led to a 5-21-4 slump.
The Ducks began their resurgence too late to get back in the race, while the Kings have remained the Western Conference's worst team for many weeks despite five victories in their previous eight games.
A sellout crowd still turned out at Honda Center to wrap up the season, and the two lowest-scoring teams in the NHL managed to produce some entertainment.
After Amadio converted a fat rebound for the game's first goal, Rowney scored on a blind pass from Jones to even it.
The Ducks went up 2-1 when Holzer slammed home a pass from Jones for the veteran German defenseman's first NHL goal since April 2, 2017, and just his fifth over seven NHL seasons with Toronto and Anaheim.
Sprong scored his 14th goal in 47 games during his solid debut season in Anaheim, and Steel scored short-handed in the third period.
"We had lots of shots tonight," Kings coach Willie Desjardins said. "I think the difference a little bit there was specialty teams. If we would have capitalized there, it would have been a different game. It happens some nights."
The Kings (30-42-9) would need a win Saturday in their season finale to match their lowest point total in a full season since 2007.
NOTES: Ducks C Ryan Kesler missed his 14th consecutive game with a hip injury. The former Selke Trophy winner has scored just 13 goals in the past two seasons while dealing with hip woes. Kesler, who will turn 35 this summer, has three seasons remaining on his $41.25 million contract extension, and he has said he will fulfill them. ... Anaheim D Brendan Guhle incurred an upper-body injury in the second period. He had missed the previous 14 games with an oblique muscle injury. ... Captain Anze Kopitar led the Kings in scoring for the 11th time in 12 seasons, but he has scored just two goals since February.
Kings: Host Golden Knights on Saturday night.
Ducks: Season over.