Corey Perry threw both his hands in the air and pulled them to his side in jubilation.
This first goal — career No. 350 — had to feel good.
All off-season (and much of last season) Perry heard the comments. Washed up, they said. Not the same elite player.
And there was good reason to believe he had seen better days. Perry, once a 50-goal scorer and league MVP, found the back of the net just 19 times last season.
So when Perry scored twice in the Ducks’ season opener Thursday — a 5-4 victory over the Arizona Coyotes after erasing a three-goal deficit — it must have been a weight off his back.
Just maybe, the old Corey Perry is back, and his subpar campaign was simply a matter of puck luck.
“I knew that question was coming, here we go,” Perry, 32, said with a laugh when last season was referenced. “Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s definitely a [boost] of confidence when you find the right spots. My linemates made some pretty good plays on those goals so credit to them as well.”
Perry, who added an assist, played on the top line along with Rickard Rakell and Andrew Cogliano.
The makeshift No. 1 unit — would-be top-liners Patrick Eaves and Ryan Getzlaf are on injured reserve — was involved on all but one goal, with Cogliano, Rakell and Perry each producing three-point nights.
“You want [Perry] to feel it,” Cogliano said. “When he does, he usually keeps it going. We’re a team here and we need contributions from each guy. One night it might be him or it might be another guy. He did a great job. ... He was around the puck all night.”
Perry was his usual pesky self in front of the net — and behind the net too. He ran into Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue in the trapezoid, which ignited a pile-up of bodies and punches with Perry at the bottom. “You get involved right away, that’s for sure,” Perry said.
And maybe this is exactly what Perry needed to jump-start his bounce-back campaign — a fracas, a couple goals and playing right wing on a line that played at a frenetic pace with the forecheck, especially in the third period.
The Ducks are missing a trio of top-six forwards right now, and two top-four defensemen. But if the Corey Perry everyone really knows, is back, just maybe the depleted Ducks can hold the fort down until the cavalry returns.
“We believe in Corey Perry,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “The commitment we’re trying to portray to him is if he plays in a top role and continues to do the things we ask you to do, we think you’re going to score goals. It’s our job to prop him up, not tear him down.”
DUCKS NEXT UP
When: 7 PDT.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Update: The Ducks could be without Getzlaf and Eaves again as both recover from lower-body injuries. … The Flyers are 1-1 entering Saturday after a 2-0 defeat to the Kings on Thursday. … Gritty Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds scored a hat trick in Philly’s team’s opener Wednesday, one of a record-tying four three-goal games in the player’s opener.