Even by the standards of the drama-prone Ducks, this registered high, and on different scales.
First, there were the regular-season franchise-record-tying 51 saves for goalie John Gibson, on a career-high 54 shots faced. Mixed in was a mysterious sequence when Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle pulled Gibson in the second period, only to send him back out.
Underlining all that was Ryan Kesler’s first hat trick as a Duck, three goals in the opening 22 minutes, and even that wasn’t enough to guarantee victory on a night when the Ducks’ defense looked like it was still on holiday.
But from that mess emerged a 4-3 Ducks shootout win Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers after Gibson sealed it in the fifth round at the Honda Center.
“Good teams, they win with their B, C, D games, you’re not going to have your A game every night and we certainly didn’t tonight,” Kessler said. “But we found a way to win.”
Carlyle said he used the brief goalie change — Jonathan Bernier for Gibson — essentially as a timeout. That had to be initially explained to Gibson, whose cool persona belies a fiery competitiveness.
“He wasn’t happy that I was pulling him,” Carlyle said. “You could see him shaking his head and I understood that. But he didn’t know what was coming. He didn’t know the intent. But that’s fine. I’d rather see people upset than see people satisfied with that situation.”
The Ducks’ defense allowed 24 of the Flyers’ 55 shots in the second period alone — 23 against Gibson and one during Bernier’s nearly four minutes on the ice. Gibson fell three shots shy of the Ducks’ franchise goalie record for most shots faced, by Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2004. He stopped four of five attempts in the shootout, the last on Sean Couturier.
Fatigue was evident in Gibson’s voice but he liked the hard-earned win.
“Tonight it was good just because you kind of had all the ups and downs, right?” he said. “To come away with a win like that, I think it shows the character in our team.”
Kesler, as he has all season, put the Ducks on his back, abetted by linemates Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano. The veteran center’s third goal triggered a shower of caps to the ice after a highlight sequence that started with a pass by Cogliano. Kesler carried the puck alone down the ice, drifted to the middle against Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto and wristed a shot through goalie Steve Mason’s pads 69 seconds into the second period.
Kesler’s first hat trick since 2011 was achieved in front of Nevan Coburn, a young fan and cancer survivor whom Kesler recently befriended and who was waiting for him outside the locker room.
“It feels good,” Kesler said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had one.”
“Offensively, my line’s on the same page,” said Kesler, who now has 15 goals in a resurgent season. “It’s an easy game when you’re line mates are on the same page.”
Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf left the game with a lower-body injury and Carlyle did not have an update after the game. The coach seemed more concerned about a defense that let the Flyers get open to put in loose pucks and roam to the net freely.
“We were playing shinny and they were playing NHL hockey,” Carlyle said. “There weren’t a lot of positives for our hockey club other than the score.”
Defenseman Sami Vatanen returned from illness and defenseman Shea Theodore was reassigned.