One by one, the hats hit the ice. Orange lids. Black ones.
They came in waves after Rickard Rakell completed the unthinkable, a second goal in less than 15 seconds, and his third of the contest, tying the score with 5.6 ticks left.
With Ryan Miller on the bench for the extra attacker, the Ducks frantically pressed, and the all-star’s first career hat trick forced overtime, the first time a team has reached the extra period facing such a deficit with 21 seconds or fewer in nearly 14 years.
If there’s such thing as a moral victory in sports, this was it.
Still, the Ducks, and even Rakell, were in no mood to celebrate after they lost 6-5 in a shootout on Sunday at Honda Center.
“It always feels good to score, but it feels better to win,” said Rakell, who generated nine shots on goal and ended an eight-game goal drought.
“The way the standings look right now, we need to take every point we can get and move forward. We’re going to need them all in the end.”
The four-game winning streak entering the weekend is now simply a distant memory.
Any momentum created by their best run this season has been erased after these back-to-back losses to clubs sitting outside the playoff picture.
The Ducks found themselves in desperation mode after a bevy of sloppy turnovers and lost puck battles allowed the dangerous duo of reigning MVP Connor McDavid (who scored the deciding shootout goal) and Leon Draisaitl to dazzle with multi-point games.
McDavid picked up three assists, including a nifty backhanded dish behind the net on the give-and-go to Anton Slepyshev.
Miller allowed five goals on 42 shots, but he was spectacular in the overtime period with a highlight-reel split save on McDavid.
The 37-year-old goalie didn’t have a chance on most of the goals, many of which came on odd-man rushes.
“We had some breakdowns, my first play of the game was a breakdown,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, whose errant center-ice pass led to a Draisaitl goal 13 seconds in.
“It’s a matter of showing desperation from the start of the game. … We have a few days off now so we can regroup and get going. “
Less than two minutes after the Oilers jumped on the board, Rakell scored his first of the game, a short-side goal with plenty of open net.
He had to work harder for his last two.
The Swede whipped around and slung the puck past Al Montoya on his second tally, and on the third, he picked up his own rebound in a mad dash for the puck through a scrum.
With the hat trick, Rakell eclipsed the 50-point plateau for the second consecutive campaign and matched his point total from last season.
“He’s a streaky scorer,” said coach Randy Carlyle, “and we’d like to see him continue to fill the net.”
Said Getzlaf: “He’s developing his game and playing the way we need him to. Again, this league is all about building that consistency as a player. “
Rakell will have a chance to turn this into another goal-scoring streak after the trade deadline, when the Ducks return Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Gibson’s return imminent
Carlyle said John Gibson will return to practice this week and the “expectation” is that he’ll be available to play against the Blue Jackets.
The starting goaltender is currently on injured reserve because of a lower-body injury after missing the past three contests.
Ducks add Team Canada captain
The Ducks signed center Chris Kelly on Sunday to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million (prorated for the balance of the season), according to a source who was not authorized to speak publicly. The depth deal includes unspecified bonuses.
Kelly led Canada to a bronze medal in the Olympic Games this month. He was out of the NHL this season after playing all 82 games with the Ottawa Senators in 2016-17.