The Ducks are ready to fight for their playoff lives, and they proved it quite literally Friday.
With their old rivals, the Detroit Red Wings in town, the squads combined for three brawls.
With each fist that connected, each drop of the gloves, the Ducks’ bench seemed ignited, and it sparked the club to a 4-2 victory before a sold-out crowd of 17,243 at Honda Center.
This show of emotion, perhaps, is exactly what the Ducks need to kick-start their team as they head into the final stretch of 10 games, sitting perilously on the edge of the playoff picture.
“I think the whole game, we fed off of [Nick Ritchie’s fight]. … Emotionally, we’re in the game, and that’s definitely a positive for us,” said Corey Perry, who exchanged blows himself with Justin Abdelkader in the second period.
Minutes before he dispensed haymakers — and a takedown — on the Red Wings forward, Perry finished off a backhanded dish from Ryan Getzlaf, who saw his linemate swinging backdoor uninhibited.
It was the second consecutive game where Perry had a (mostly) empty net to shoot at following a heady pass from the Ducks captain.
The other Ducks players who participated in fights also scored goals, but none of the trio was able to complete the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with an assist.
“At this time of the year, with the position we’re in, we’re playing for keeps,” Ritchie said. “Not that we weren’t all season, but it’s really a desperate time. Sometimes the emotions come out, and tonight they did.”
Ritchie’s first-period goal gave the Ducks the first lead of the contest. The power forward lumbered toward the net and finished off the feed from Ondrej Kase, a goal created by Adam Henrique’s forecheck into the boards that pushed the puck loose.
Just 18 seconds after Perry was sent to the penalty box for fighting, Ryan Kesler squared off with Anthony Mantha as both the bench and crowd were fired up.
Derek Grant scored the other goal, a rare occasion where a forward from each of the four lines scored at even strength.
“It’s huge when we can get emotionally involved early,” said Kesler, who scored a goal for the first time in 15 contests. “These games mean a lot.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be emotionally involved from the start. Tonight was pretty easy to get emotional.”
The Ducks, even after two consecutive victories, remain just outside the playoffs. And now, they await meetings with much better clubs, teams that are still playing meaningful hockey.
But they’re willing to fight, and with 10 games left, they have no other choice.
It’s quite possible Kevin Bieksa has played his final game in a Ducks uniform. The veteran defenseman underwent surgery on his left hand to remove scar tissue Friday, and he’ll be out two to five weeks.
The 36-year-old is last on the Ducks with a -13 rating, and he’s struggled with turnovers this season. He’s been in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch of late, and his $4 million salary comes off the books this summer.