A lead had vanished. The minutes were dwindling away. A possible third consecutive loss to the top contender was at hand.
But the Ducks have become pretty sharp in tense moments this season, and again on Monday they made well-timed adjustments to claim a 3-2 overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center.
Ducks center Ryan Kesler, denied on four previous shots against Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (29 saves), notched the game-winner 58 seconds into overtime by blasting a high stick-side shot to the net.
"We fell behind, but we never quit going," Kesler said. "We really wanted this one going into a [four-day holiday] break. We've all been on the other side of this, when you lose and think about it for three days. So we're going to enjoy this one, re-energize and come back."
The Ducks, with an NHL-best record of 23-8-5 and a 17-0-5 mark in one-goal games, forced overtime by intensifying the pressure on Niemi, summoning defensemen to attack the net more often.
Defenseman Cam Fowler blitzed past San Jose center Patrick Marleau and took a precision pass from center Ryan Getzlaf between two Sharks to beat Niemi with 4 minutes 16 seconds left in regulation.
"I saw a lane to the net and Getzy makes that whole play," Fowler said. "I don't think there's too many people in this league who see that opening. I was happy to be able to finish it off."
San Jose (19-11-5) was seeking its sixth consecutive victory and responded to an early deficit by taking a 2-1 lead in the third, its first score a goal deflected in by Joe Pavelski.
Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen had a strong 30-save night, but was vulnerable to a loss after San Jose center Melker Karlsson launched a shot from beyond the faceoff circle to Andersen's left, the puck dribbling into the net.
Andersen called Karlsson's goal "fluky."
"That goal happened, but you could see how much everyone started battling, to give me a goal back and get a win," Andersen said.
The battle was scoreless until 7:20 into the second period when Ducks center Rickard Rakell scored his first regular-season goal.
Rakell was in front of Niemi when he found a loose puck that was flicked off the glass by forward Emerson Etem. Rakell smacked the puck to the net.
Reminders of the Oct. 26 Ducks-Sharks clash at Honda Center surfaced. The teams combined for 165 penalty minutes then.
On Monday, there was a fistfight between Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner and Sharks forward Tye McGinn in the first period.
Then, San Jose's John Scott jarred the back of his stick at Ducks forward Tim Jackman's throat area, causing Jackman to drop flat on his back near the Ducks' goal in the second.
Jackman underwent medical evaluation and didn't return.