The Ducks, it seems, are never quite out of it.
Even when they’re not playing their best, they find a way to flip momentum. At least that’s been the case recently, and it happened again Sunday before 17,054 at Honda Center.
Down two goals against the Colorado Avalanche, one of the squads the Ducks are fighting for a spot in the playoffs, they rebounded with a two-goal third period and then a nifty Ondrej Kase goal in overtime lifted them to a 4-3 victory.
It was the third time in the past four games the Ducks rallied to force overtime before prevailing in the extra period, and it’s the same kind of resiliency that’s been a hallmark for the club all season.
Through a rash of key injuries and an ever-changing lineup, and even when the Ducks have looked sluggish on the ice, they’ve found a way to win. With three games remaining in the regular season, they hold on to a playoff spot, even if that grip is rather tenuous.
“We don’t have a young team, per se, here, so we’re in a situation where we want to be in the playoffs. It’s that simple,” said Andrew Cogliano, who produced a goal and an assist. “We’re going to need to find ways to make that happen. It seems like we’re crawling to the point of the playoffs right now.
“At the end of the day, it’s been a long year, it’s been a hard year. It’s been a grind in terms of injuries and how we’ve played. We want to make it count. You don’t want to not be in [the playoffs]. We’re pushing ourselves right to the bitter end to get in there.”
Unfortunately for the Ducks, two new key injuries materialized Sunday.
Ryan Kesler gave Gabriel Landeskog a shove in the back, and the Avalanche captain crashed into John Gibson, who appears headed for a Vezina Trophy nomination as one of the NHL’s best goalies this season. Gibson remained in the game, but it was Ryan Miller who was in net when the second period began.
Randy Carlyle didn’t have an update on Gibson’s status other than to say the goaltender would be evaluated, a statement the coach has been forced to utter all too often this season.
“[Landeskog] threw himself at Gibby,” Kesler said. “I gave him a slight jab, and he knows what he’s doing there obviously.”
Gibson, 24, has been excellent in net but has been forced to leave games six times because of injury.
Another uncertainty the Ducks must deal with: the health of top defenseman Cam Fowler, who didn’t play in the extra period after suffering an upper-body injury.
Carlyle belabored the point Saturday, as he has all season, that the Ducks need to start fast, especially against an equally desperate, yet more skillful club in the Avalanche.
The opening minutes didn’t go according to plan. Ryan Getzlaf was thrown out of the face-off circle by an official, much to the captain’s chagrin, before Rickard Rakell won the draw, and then something fluky occurred.
The puck bounced off Rakell’s stick, caromed off Corey Perry’s skate and popped past Gibson just 1:16 into the game. Alexander Kerfoot was credited with the tally, but Carlyle called it an “own goal.”
Cogliano tied it up about five minutes later when he finished off a breakaway chance, but consecutive second-period goals from Avalanche winger Tyson Jost placed the Ducks in a hole.
They dug out of it with a much more productive third. First, Perry set up shop behind the net and dished it to Adam Henrique to pull the Ducks within one.
Less than two minutes later, Kesler collected a rebound and fired it into the net before he glided around the ice on one skate, arms wide open in celebration.
It was enough to push the game to overtime, and once they were there, Kase made sure they grabbed another point with a toe-drag, top-shelf goal off an odd-man rush.