The Ducks hopped off the home bench and huddled around goaltender Ryan Miller, again indulging in a victory routine that is starting to seem second nature.
This time, the Ducks were celebrating a 4-2 defeat of the Carolina Hurricanes at Honda Center on Friday. Behind Miller’s 22 saves and points from 10 players inthe lineup, they improved to 6-2-0 overall and remained perfect on home ice (4-0-0). Few seasons in the Ducks’ franchise history have begun so auspiciously. Fewer still have been as unanticipated.
Coming off a third-to-last-place finish in the Western Conference a season ago, the Ducks were supposed to still be in rebuild mode this season. They are breaking in a new coach in Dallas Eakins and a reshaped lineup that on Friday included six players 23 or younger.
Nonetheless, they’ve played like a contender in the opening weeks, trailing only the Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division and fast becoming one of the league’s biggest early-season surprises.
“It gives us confidence,” Eakins said of knocking off a Hurricanes squad that had won six of its first eight. “For us to come in and be able to skate with them and be fortunate to come out on top, it reinforces what we’re trying to build.”
The first half of Friday’s win epitomized everything that is going right for Eakins’ side. They were stifling in their own end, sharp on the penalty kill and opportunistic offensively.
Their first goal came after a slick neutral zone play between Ondrej Kase and Rickard Rakell (the only Duck with multiple points on the night with two assists) sprang a wide-open Adam Henrique into the offensive zone. He went barreling toward the net and buried a wrist shot on Hurricane goalie Petr Mrazek’s blocker side.
Later, moments after killing off a penalty, the Ducks set up in the offensive zone. From the right-wing boards, Sam Steel skated into space and found Cam Fowler open at the point. Fowler wound up and fired a slap shot toward the net. Troy Terry deflected it with a screen in front, registering his first point of the season.
“I feel like I’ve been playing the same way all year,” Terry said. “I thought I had the same game tonight. I felt good and confident. Just had a goal to show for it finally.”
By the first television timeout of the second period, the Ducks put the game out of reach. Thirty-seven seconds into the frame, Jakob Silfverberg gathered his own rebound near the crease and slipped the puck inside the post. At the 5:56 mark, Carter Rowney roofed a short-handed goal.
Down 4-0, the Hurricanes made a goalie change and scored twice before the end of the second, getting goals from Erik Haula and Haydn Fleury. After that, Miller and the Ducks slammed the door.
The veteran stopped Sebastian Aho on a partial breakaway in the second, and kicked aside a blast from the point in the third.
Hampus Lindholm blocked back-to-back Teuvo Teravainen shots from point-blank range.
“We’re not giving up a ton [with the lead],” Eakins said. “We don’t want to just back out of the zone, either, and play with a super high forward. We want to stay aggressive. We still want to get O-zone time. But in the same breath, we want to be calculated with our offense. Overall, I just like our aggression.”