Cam Fowler didn't know a backward pass was coming his way and wasn't even immediately aware that he scored the winning goal Sunday.
But the mob rushing him with big smiles told him all he needed to know — that a signature defensive performance by the Ducks was complete.
Anaheim's 2-1 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center was a stifling show on defense as the visitors managed only six shots on goal in the final two-plus periods, with 14 overall.
Defenseman Fowler did his part on the blue line with two blocked shots in about 22 minutes of ice time. He then notched the winner against Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller 2:42 into overtime.
Ducks forward Devante Smith-Pelly whisked the primary assist to Fowler, a backward touch that glanced off the goalie's right leg pad, with Fowler following with an effort that sneaked under Miller.
“It was kind of stuck in someone's feet, so I just gave it a good whack and then I saw people celebrating,” Fowler said. “I was just kind of trailing [Smith-Pelly] to see what would happen. ‘Devo' made a great play.”
The Ducks (24-8-6) are 18-0-6 in one-goal games, but that unbeaten-in-regulation streak appeared in danger until another defenseman, Francois Beauchemin, launched a blue-line shot past Miller 6:52 into the third period.
Beauchemin, who missed five games with mumps and 13 more with a broken finger before returning to play Saturday, snapped a personal 24-game drought with the goal.
“You try to stay calm,” Beauchemin said of both Sunday's late deficit and his own scoring struggle. “Big relief, obviously, when you haven't scored past Christmas.”
Fowler said the Ducks resolved after the second period that, “we were trending in the right direction to the game we wanted to play,” after limiting the Canucks (20-11-3) to four second-period shots.
Although one of those, by Vancouver defenseman Yannick Weber, sailed through traffic to beat Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, “we knew if we stuck with it, something would pop for us,” Fowler said.
The wait became anxious, however.
The failure of a fourth power play early in the third dropped the Ducks to 22nd in the NHL in the category (16%), underlining the toll of the continued absence of injured right wing Corey Perry (sprained knee).
And forward Andrew Cogliano twice clanked the crossbar behind Miller.
To close the second period, Cogliano shot the puck a quarter of an inch too high. He exhaled a large sigh of disbelief and was later deprived of a game-winner off a Hampus Lindholm steal that set up a breakaway with 2:39 left in the third.
“It's not ideal, but we didn't give them much,” Cogliano said. “At the end of the day … we're in first place. That's all that matters.”
The victory was the 10th this month by both the team and Andersen, who established a new franchise record for goalie victories in any month and became the first in the NHL to win 10 December games since Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo each had 10 in the 2009-10 season.
“They had a couple of quick [shots] in the first, but not much else,” Andersen said. “I knew we'd get one eventually.”