Just maybe, it was the injuries all along that were the chief reasons for the Ducks’ struggles.
With their most complete lineup yet, the Ducks delivered their best performance of the season in a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday before 16,641 at Honda Center.
Star center Ryan Getzlaf has played between so many different linemates this season as coach Randy Carlyle looked to jump-start the top line, and it was a reunion that did the trick.
Getzlaf skated alongside Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves, his running mates from the 2017-18 campaign, and the trio dazzled with a bundle of Grade-A scoring chances.
For an offense-starved club (ranked 29th entering the game), the looks were desperately needed. Just 27 seconds after the Flames tied the score at 2-2, Getzlaf buried a backhander to regain the lead for good 6:33 into the final period.
Rakell created the opportunity by streaking to the net, dragging two defenders along with him, and Getzlaf was there to collect the puck below the faceoff circle. He let out a scream coupled with a fist-pump on one skate. The Ducks needed this after losing eight of their last nine, including a 4-1 loss to the Kings on Tuesday.
“We’ve been working hard to try to close a couple of these games,” said Getzlaf, who has eight points in his last six games. “Emotions are high, obviously, in this room. It was pretty exciting.”
Eaves is still searching for his first point of the season, but Getzlaf is confident he’ll break through soon. The winger, playing in just his fourth game since October 2017 (post-viral illness, shoulder surgery), came close to scoring twice.
He missed to the left of the net on a wrist shot from the slot, and then to the right of the post early in the third period. Eaves’ return to the lineup (32 goals in 2016-17) gives the Ducks another threat.
Rakell, the Ducks’ lone All-Star a season ago, impressed too. He just missed on a breakaway set up by Getzlaf late in the third.
“Our line, I thought, we were there all night,” said Rakell, who led the team with 33 goals last season but has just three through 17 games. He’s been creating more chances lately and appears to be finding his form. “I’m being put in positions where I can get the puck with speed,” he said, ”and get through the neutral zone and get opponents on me and attack the net from there.”
For the first time in eight games, the Ducks scored first. Jakob Silfverberg’s slap shot dribbled through Mike Smith’s five-hole 8:37 into the first period. They padded the lead with another soft goal allowed by Smith, a juicy rebound off the leg pad that Adam Henrique capitalized on more than three minutes later.
The Flames jumped on the board with a Matthew Tkachuk re-direct on the power play late in the first, and then were somehow held off the scoresheet in a chaotic second period when goalie Ryan Miller shined with a few assists from the post.
“We’ve been having trouble with confidence lately,” acknowledged Miller, who made 37 stops. “We have it in this room to win hockey games, we just have to have the right kind of energy.”
Topping a dangerous Flames team riding a four-game winning streak should do wonders for the Ducks’ self-belief.
If they can stay healthy and find some continued cohesion, it’s not too late to turn this season around.