The Ducks couldn’t have loved their chances when it was learned they would open a season without captain Ryan Getzlaf on the ice for the first time in his 13 seasons in Anaheim.
One injury to a star player? Sure, they could deal with that.
But when you added Getzlaf’s absence to the dizzying list of key injuries — Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and backup goalie Ryan Miller — the deck seemed stacked.
It didn’t matter.
The Coyotes stormed out of the gate with two goals in the first 10 minutes, but the Ducks saved their best hockey for the third period, and put together two more goals in the final stanza to erase a three-goal deficit and steal a 5-4 victory at Honda Center.
Rickard Rakell, playing center after scoring 33 goals as a winger last season, buried the game winner with less than four minutes remaining off a pass from Andrew Cogliano, who terrorized the Coyotes with his ferocious forecheck.
Cogliano also scored the game-tying goal minutes earlier off a Corey Perry rebound.
“We fought through it,” said Rakell, who also added two assists. “We still had a good feeling after the first period. We just wanted to restart and focus on the things that we could do better. We just kept on.
“I thought for sure we took advantage of the chances we got. We created some turnovers. We played pretty good.”
Perry was a factor all night, and it had to feel good.
He trudged through the most disappointing campaign of his star-studded career last season with just 19 goals.
But after scoring the Ducks’ lone first-period goal, Perry energized the squad later on in a different way, one that’s become his calling card.
A melee erupted after Perry took out goalie Louis Domingue, who was filling in for the banged up Antti Raanta. Fists starting flying immediately behind the net.
Ducks goalie John Gibson even received a 10-minute misconduct for leaving his net.
Moments later, the Coyotes made the score 4-1 on the power play goal, and all seemed lost.
“The last eight minutes of that second period we started to find our legs and started to get involved emotionally, and it carried over to the third period,” said Perry, who scored his second goal of the game (both on helpers from Rakell) shortly after the fracas. “There’s a lot of guys who are sitting on the sidelines.”
Young players like Ondrej Kase were on the ice, though, and he sniped home a goal after a takeaway from Jacob Silfverberg to cut the deficit to 4-3.
And when he had to, Gibson came up big with some timely split saves, though he also gave up some juicy rebounds.
Like when he stopped Derek Stepan on the breakaway, and then denied the trailing Christian Dvorak to keep the game in hand.
The Ducks — led by the interim, improvised No. 1 line of Cogliano, Rakell and Perry — pressed and pressed and pressed.
They forced turnovers and seemed to get stronger as the game went on.
The line may have to play together again on Saturday when the Philadelphia Flyers come to town. But the Ducks hope reliable No. 15, Getzlaf, is back on the ice with the “C” on his sweater.