It wasn’t a decision as much as it was second nature.
And it’s one of the reasons the Ducks believe they’re championship-worthy.
In the final minute of Sunday’s eventual 5-4 shootout victory over the Winnipeg Jets at Honda Center, Ducks first-line right wing Corey Perry was decked to the ice by a hit he never saw coming from Jets toughman Dustin Byfuglien.
Even though the Ducks were just a minute from salvaging at least a point from a game that appeared out of their grasp when the third period began, Anaheim center Ryan Kesler and forward Patrick Maroon moved in to retaliate on Byfuglien.
Kesler was slapped with a roughing penalty, leaving the Ducks short-handed for the end of regulation and for the first 1 minute, two seconds, of overtime.
“You’ve got to grab a guy there and let him know, ‘You can’t do that to our star player,’” Kesler said Monday. “We’ve had talks about that. … You have to defend your teammate. It doesn’t matter who it is. When they take liberties like they did, you’ve got to stick up for your teammate.
“We’re a family. We stick together.”
Kesler acknowledged his actions might’ve been tamer if it was a playoff game -- and Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he would revisit the play this week.
“Sometimes, you have to get the number of the truck that hit you and get him at a different time,” Boudreau said, maintaining that he would not tell his players to not repeat such self-defense in the future. “It’s a learning process. We’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts, the whens and whys.”
Tied with the Nashville Predators for most points in the NHL, the Ducks (27-10-6) went on to kill the penalty, even through the 4-on-3 disadvantage early in overtime, and won the game with Kesler scoring one of three shootout goals.
“Obviously, if they scored, it’s a different situation, and I’m more [ticked] off,” Kesler said. “But you battle back from two goals to win, that speaks how good of character we have in this room.”
Perry said he appreciated the gesture.
“A lot of teams can score on those 4-on-3’s in overtime,” Perry said. “We don’t want to take ourselves out of the hockey game. But it’s great to see everyone sticking up for each other. You don’t mess around with family.”
He agreed with the suggestion that, in some cases, an act such as Kesler and Maroon’s has more long-term value than a point or two in the standings.
“It does mean the world,” Perry said. “It has happened a few times this year. That’s the type of team we have.”
STILL IN THE ROOM: Boudreau thought the Ducks’ Sunday night celebration of retired forward Teemu Selanne’s No. 8 was “incredible,” and agreed with what some players said afterward: that Selanne’s influence is still felt in the dressing room.
The Ducks still keep Selanne’s emptied locker in place.
“When you’ve played with him, you’re never going to forget what went on in his regimen of day-to-day life,” Boudreau said. “The thing that rubbed off on everybody was how much he loved the game and the passion he played with. If he didn’t have that, he wouldn’t have played until he was 43.
“That passion … the guys know it was there, and any time they get down and think, ‘Oh, man, this is a tough job,’ they think of that and they realize what a great opportunity they have.”
The Ducks reported sales records Sunday on top of their beyond-capacity crowd.
The team surpassed $500,000 in merchandise sales, the largest game-day total in franchise history by 28% and saw more than 10,000 fans visit their team store and merchandise tent during a four-day self-described “Teemu-palooza.”