Each time the Ducks grabbed the lead Thursday night, the Winnipeg Jets responded almost immediately.
The teams’ nip-and-tuck affair was tied after 60 minutes and even an overtime period wasn’t enough to break the stalemate.
No one scored through four shootout rounds, either, before Adam Henrique finally was called on to dazzle with the same nifty moves he has displayed since debuting with the Ducks on Dec. 1.
And Henrique delivered again, streaking like a ball of fire down the middle of the ice toward Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck before twisting his back to the net and lifting the puck over Hellebuyck’s left shoulder, giving the Ducks a 4-3 victory and sending a Honda Center crowd of 17,174 into a frenzy.
It was a badly needed second consecutive victory in a season when winning streaks have been hard to come by. Suddenly, the Ducks will be in a position to win a third straight game for only the third time when they emerge from the all-star break.
“It’s all about points right now and it’s all about getting wins and making sure that we stay with the pack,” said coach Randy Carlyle, whose Ducks are tied for the final Western Conference playoff spot with three other clubs.
“We know the situation we’re in, we’re going to have to win our fair share of games to qualify for the playoffs and we need to garner points every chance we get.”
The Ducks, who ended the Jets’ three-game winning streak, had to carve out the win with backup goalie Ryan Miller pressed into duty with 6:40 to play in regulation after John Gibson was sidelined because of a lower-body injury.
If the veteran was cold — and he must have been considering he somehow didn’t face a single shot in either regulation or overtime — it was impossible to tell.
Miller stood tall and denied all five Jets skaters in the shootout, becoming only the fifth goaltender in the last 40 years to record a victory without making an official save.
“It’s not ideal [to appear late in relief], but it’s kind of what’s expected,” Miller said. “You try to make a difference and I was happy to do that tonight for sure.”
The Jets opened the scoring in the first period after Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf mishandled the puck and Patrik Laine pounced for the takeaway and a quick wrist shot to score his 22nd goal.
More than three minutes later, Henrique capitalized when Laine made a mistake.
The third-line center burst into the zone, ripped the puck from Laine, then brushed off a hook from a trailing defender and let loose with a top-shelf wrister to tie the score at 1-1.
“Really ever since I’ve been here I’ve felt great about my game,” said Henrique, who is riding a five-game point streak. “I feel like I’m creating opportunities; confident with the puck all over the ice, and things just seem to come as of late.”
Nick Ritchie added a second-period deflection goal on a Henrique wrist shot about two minutes later to give the Ducks the lead, but it was short-lived.
The Jets quickly responded with the game-tying goal 2:11 later.
When the third period rolled around, it was the Ducks leading again after Ryan Kesler out-battled Mathieu Perreault for the puck and slung it from the corner, somehow slipping it into the net.
But the Jets, who lead the Central Division behind their all-star goalie, captain Blake Wheeler and a young crop of quick, physical skaters, rallied again. They tied the score 21 seconds later with a Jack Roslovic goal after yet another uncharacteristic Getzlaf turnover.
“It’s alarming when you score a goal and then they let the opposition back into it right away,” Carlyle noted, “the first shift after the goal.”
The Ducks won’t have to be alarmed for a while. They head into the break following an impressively played game against one of the best teams in the league, but they will have to hold their breath as they wait to learn the status of Gibson, their No. 1 goalie.