ANAHEIM - A rocky five-game road trip to start the Ducks' season was made easier to put in the rear view mirror with a triumphant return home tonight.
The Ducks, who started the season a pedestrian 1-3-1, got a third period goal from young Nick Ritchie and some insurance from Corey Perry to vanquish the visiting Canucks 4-2 in the home opener at Honda Center. It was a second straight victory for the Ducks, who ended the road trip with a win Thursday night in Philadelphia.
"This is the first game," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf', "where I felt like we really clicked together. We've been building. It started in the second period against the Islanders [Anaheim's third game of the season]. We've started to build something from there."
The surprising Canucks, picked by many to finish last in the Pacific Division, came into the game not having lost in regulation, though they suffered a 4-3 shootout loss last night in LA after wiping out a three-goal Kings lead.
"It's not easy to win in this league, and up until the last two games, we hadn't put 60 minutes together," said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, who had a big goal in the second period. "It was nice to get a big win in Philadelphia and carry that over to the home opener where there's a lot of energy. Good couple of wins. Still room for improvement, but we're off to a good start."
The Ducks went in front just 33 seconds after the opening faceoff when Josh Manson drove the center lane unimpeded and fired a shot that caromed off goalie Ryan Miller, and Andrew Cogliano punched in the rebound.
Vancouver got even on a shorthanded goal with 32 seconds left in that period when Bo Horvat picked off an errant pass and cashed in on the ensuing breakaway.
The Ducks regained the lead just 18 seconds into the middle session, on the power play, as Fowler's shot from the wing slipped through a crowd of players, struck the post and got past Miller. "The onus was on us to come out and grab momentum from our team," Fowler said of his third goal of the young season. "It was good to get one back."
It's a credit to Miller the Ducks didn't get more than that, as they outshot the Canucks 30-11 over the first two periods and, unlike on the shaky road trip, committed no penalties.
They almost got bitten by their first one, which came less than two minutes into the third period, but the Ducks dodged a bullet when a Vancouver shot rang the inside of the post, and John Gibson made a diving stop on Henrik Sedin's rebound try.
Video: VAN@ANA: Gibson makes a great snag to rob Sedin
But soon after that penalty was killed, Vancouver tied the game when Sedin's shot from the slot bounced off a skate and snuck behind Gibson, who had 17 saves on just 19 Vancouver shots.
The Ducks went back in front with 8:36 left in regulation after Getzlaf's shot from the left wing deflected into the air off defenseman Alex Edler, and Ritchie swept the puck in with the backhand as soon as it landed at his feet at the top of the crease. Getzlaf finished with three assists on the night.
Video: VAN@ANA: Ritchie scores off of a high deflection
"I guess no one saw it, and I was in the right place," Ritchie said. "It was nice to give us the lead."
Perry gave the Ducks some comfort with 1:17 left, losing Edler with a shot fake, cruising in on right wing and slipping the puck under Miller despite not getting much on it.
The Ducks carried that lead to the final horn, improving to 2-3-1 on the season with their next game coming Tuesday at San Jose and then back home Wednesday vs. Nashville.
"You don't want to get too high on wins or too low on losses, but you have to take a look at the situation presented." said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, who earned his first home win after returning to the Ducks this season. "They played last night and we came off a five-game road trip. We had the mentality of going to work tonight, and it showed in all three periods. We wanted to make sure we applied as much pressure as we possibly could in all areas of the ice. It was frustrating at times when we dominated for certain stretches and didn't come up with anything. We were finally able to bust through in the third period."