They needed four games, but the Ducks finally were the first ones on the board.
But John Gibson kept his team in the game with 20 saves in the first period (39 overall), and the Ducks defeated the Islanders 3-2 Wednesday in front of 14,553 at Honda Center.
The Ducks welcomed back Patrick Eaves, who made his season debut after sitting out the preseason because of a lower-body injury. The winger’s return meant the Ducks finally had their top line intact, with Ryan Getzlaf centering Eaves on the left and Corey Perry on the right.
Eaves paid dividends with a third-period one-timer off a nifty behind-the-net pass from Manson, who picked up two assists, that beat Halak short side to make it 3-1.
Eaves also took his rightful spot on the top power-play unit, and after 15 tries, the Ducks are still looking for their first such goal.
They thought the drought was over after Derek Grant tipped in a Brandon Montour slapper, but Islanders coach Doug Weight successfully challenged that the third-period play was offside.
“We scored a goal, we were just offside, inches away,” said Eaves, who produced a career-best 32 goals last season. “We’re getting guys back now. I thought we did some good things moving the puck [on the power play]. Getzy was shooting, so that’s great for us down at the net. We’ll keep working on it.”
Getzlaf recorded two assists two nights after he acknowledged his game was rusty.
And the team’s No. 2 center, Rickard Rakell, continued his strong play with a deflection on a Cam Fowler blast for the Ducks’ second goal. He also had a team-high five shots after he led the Ducks in that category with seven in Monday’s loss to the Calgary Flames.
“We knew we didn’t play up to our potential. Going into the locker room in a tied game, it was still a good feeling for us that we had a tied game,” said Rakell, who centers Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg. “We knew we could play so much better.
“It was a good response from the whole team going forward after the first period. We managed to push them back a little bit and put some pressure on them.”
One of these nights, the Ducks won’t have to regroup after a shaky first period. But until then, they can thank Gibson for keeping them in the game.
The No. 1 line is back. Slowly but surely, the Ducks are returning to health, and now they head to Colorado on Friday for their first trip of the season sitting at five points in the Pacific Division. Considering the way they’ve started games, they’ll take it.
Anaheim salutes Las Vegas
One night after the Vegas Golden Knights played their first home game and saluted the victims and first responders of the mass shooting, the Ducks also gave a tribute.
They welcomed 20 heroes and victims from the shooting, all from Orange County.
Like Jonathan Smith, who was credited with saving 30 lives and took two bullets in the process, one to an arm and one to the neck.
The group was recognized during the second period with a standing ovation from the crowd. Afterward, they were greeted by players, including Getzlaf, and had the opportunity to have their new Ducks sweaters signed.
Each of them received a custom jersey with their last name stitched on the back and a number of their choice. The most popular option? 91, as in Route 91 Harvest, the name of the country musical festival where the shooting took place.