Wouldn’t it be funny?
Not funny, ha-ha. But funny in a good way.
The Ducks’ power play last season was the worst in NHL history, clicking at a woeful 8.9 percent, more of a hindrance than a help as they sank to second-to-last place in the league’s overall standings. All the talk and all the work since then apparently have paid off in the early days of the season.
Suddenly, the Ducks’ ability to score while skating with the man-advantage has been their biggest strength to start the season. Their power play kept them in another game, this one a gritty 3-2 overtime victory over the Flames on Monday night at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary
Overall, the Ducks are a very credible 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) while on the power play to start 2021-22, the latest goal coming on Cam Fowler’s first-period strike. It took Rickard Rakell’s tying goal in the third period while skating at even strength, plus an important late penalty kill, to force the game to OT.
Rookie defenseman Jamie Drysdale then won it 3:26 into overtime, converting on a two-on-one break with Troy Terry to give the Ducks a 2-1-0 record to start the season. Terry swiped the puck from Noah Hanifin of the Flames in the defensive zone and then raced ahead, slipping a pass to Drysdale at the moment of truth.
“Awesome,” Drysdale said of his first NHL overtime winner.
Drysdale credited Terry for setting him up.
“It was a little bit of a blur, but Troy made a good defensive play and I tried to work my way up the ice as fast as I could,” Drysdale said. “Troy did all the work. It was a heck of a play by him. It was really exciting being back here in Canada, even though the fans were cheering against us.”
Calgary had taken a 2-1 lead on Elias Lindholm’s goal only 3:52 into the second period, and the Flames seemed determined to take control of the game when Nicolas Deslauriers squared off with Milan Lucic at center ice at 8:26 of the middle period. It was a momentum-changing fight.
Deslauriers earned a draw with Lucic, and although the Ducks couldn’t produce the equalizer, they were back in the game and had Deslauriers to thank. They generated some sustained pressure at last and stayed within striking distance while down only a goal entering the third period.
“For me, that’s the hardest job in hockey,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said of Deslauriers’ willingness to fight Lucic. “It took tons of courage. Lucic is no slouch. ‘Des’ was just going out and trying anything he can to flip the momentum. It’s always impressive to me. I did think it got us going again.”
The Ducks tied the score, 1-1, on Fowler’s power-play goal at 15:56 of the first period, after Blake Coleman scored on a breakaway only 7:43 into the game for Calgary. Fowler made the Flames pay with his first goal of the season, a laser past goalie Jacob Markstrom from the right wing.
“That’s how we lost games last year,” Eakins said of the Ducks’ power-play woes in 2020-21. “It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Hey, when you go out on a power play, or three of four of them, and you come up empty-handed night after night after night, you’re not going to get points in this league.
“Your special teams are so important. They’re big momentum swings.”
FACTS AND FIGURES
John Gibson made 41 saves and improved to 2-0-0 with a 1.46 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage. He returned to the Ducks’ net after sitting out Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Anthony Stolarz started Friday and could start Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers. … Rookie left wing Mason McTavish was forced from the game because of an unspecified lower body injury. … Right wing Max Jones and defenseman Hampus Lindholm also did not finish the game because of undisclosed injuries. Lindholm blocked a shot late in the game and limped to the dressing room.
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