For one night at least, Corey Perry rediscovered his scoring touch in propelling the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Antoine Vermette and the Ducks were left hoping this is a sign of things to come.
“Oh, he’s a wild card. This is a dangerous player all his career and we know that,” Vermette said. “If he gets going, we know how hot he can be.”
Perry scored twice to double his goal total in his previous 25 games, and added an assist in helping the Ducks snap an 0-2-1 skid. It was the six-time 30-goal-scorer’s first multigoal game since he scored three times last Feb. 28.
“That’s more of the vintage Corey Perry that we’re accustomed to,” Coach Randy Carlyle said. “Hopefully, this is just a sign of him taking the next step now.”
Credit Carlyle, too, for providing Perry a boost by switching him to wing and moving linemate Rickard Rakell to center. Both played a key role in a game the Ducks blew open by scoring three consecutive goals in the first 10:11 of the third period.
Perry set up Rakell on a give-and-go to put the Ducks ahead 2-1 just 55 seconds into the third period. And Rakell set up Perry’s second goal with 9:49 remaining to make it 4-1.
Vermette scored a power-play goal and Andrew Cogliano added an empty-netter, while John Gibson stopped 22 shots. Anaheim picked up its 68th point to move two ahead of third-place Edmonton in the Pacific Division standings.
Jack Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen scored for Buffalo, which lost in regulation at home for the first time since a 4-2 defeat to Boston on Dec. 29. The Sabres had gone 6-0-1 since, including a 5-4 overtime win over San Jose on Tuesday in which Buffalo overcame a three-goal deficit in the final 12 minutes of the third period.
The Sabres ran out of rallies in a third period in which they were being outshot, 14-3, at one point.
“We can’t expect to climb back and make a hell of a comeback all the time,” said Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, who stopped 39 shots. “In the end, 14-3 (shots against) and it’s 4-1 in a 1-1 game. We can twist the facts as much as we want, it’s just not good enough.”
Lehner blamed himself on Perry’s second goal, in which the goalie whiffed in attempting to stop Rakell’s shot from the left circle. The puck trickled into the slot, allowing Perry to easily convert the rebound.
Lehner had little help on Perry’s first goal, which opened the scoring with three seconds left in the first period.
Stripping defenseman Jake McCabe of the puck along the right boards, Perry skated behind the net, came out the other side and wound his way untouched into the slot from where he beat Lehner through the legs.
Perry played down his offensive struggles, but acknowledged he has to be more consistent in winning puck battles.
“If the team’s winning, I don’t care,” Perry said. “If we’re struggling, then it falls on the leaders’ shoulders. That’s when you have to step up and prove to everybody that you are a leader on this team.”
The Sabres’ only threat came 6:04 into the second period, when Eichel scored a power-play goal two seconds after Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour was penalized for tripping. Ryan O’Reilly won the faceoff in the right circle, and Kyle Okposo drew the puck back to Eichel, who snapped in a low shot inside the left post.
The shot beat Gibson, who had just returned to the ice after missing the start of the second period because of an equipment issue. Backup Jonathan Bernier stopped the two shots he faced in place of Gibson.