ANAHEIM - In one of the strangest, most entertaining games of this Ducks season, a goalie who got briefly pulled ended up having the game of his life.
John Gibson tied a Ducks regular season record with 51 saves - and added four more in the shootout - as the Ducks downed the Flyers 4-3 before a sellout crowd of 17,174 at Honda Center. Meanwhile, Ryan Kesler had his first hat trick as a Duck, scoring all of the Anaheim goals in a span of 21 minutes over the first two periods.
"It feels good," Kesler said of his first hat trick since April of 2011 with Vancouver. "It's been a while since I've had one."
But it was Corey Perry who scored the biggest one in the shootout, burying a wrist shot in the fifth round that set the stage for Gibson to seal it with a right pad stop on Sean Couturier.
"There weren't a lot of positives for our hockey club other than the score," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We started well and then there was a point in the game where everything was going their way. They out-worked us, out-hit us and out-competed us in the faceoff circle and a bunch of areas on the ice. The shots on goal started to reflect that. On the other side of it, our goaltender stood tall in net and our penalty killing won us the hockey game. Those factors won us the hockey game."
Gibson seemed an unlikely hero when he was pulled after giving up the third of the Flyers' three goals, early in the second period. But backup Jonathan Bernier was only in net for about four minutes before Gibson was sent back in, and he went on to carry the Ducks on a night when they were outshot 55-25.
"It's not something that happens every day, but it was a big test," Gibson said of facing 54 of those shots. "There are games when I'll only see 15 shots. Sometimes you'll see more than others, and that was the case tonight."
The fact the Ducks were even in the game with that shot differential was consistent with the spirit of this first night of 2017. It started with a mustached Teemu Selanne riding the Zamboni during the pregame and included a first period fight between Kevin Bieksa and Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in which Simmonds ended up bare backed when his jersey and pads came off.
"Throughout the season, you have to win in different ways," Kesler said. "Good teams win with their B, C or D games. You're not going to have your A game every night, and we certainly didn't tonight, but we found a way to win."
Kesler got his first goal eight minutes into the game and seconds after coming up short on a power play, when Korbinian Holzer deftly skated toward the net before feeding Kesler for the easy tap-in on the back door.
Video: PHI@ANA: Kesler taps home Holzer's great feed
Philadelphia struck back as that goal was being announced, with Travis Konecny punching in a second chance after a great Gibson kick save.
Kesler got his second of the period with 3:06 left, also off a rebound, chipping the bouncing puck over goalie Steve Mason's shoulder from inside the crease.
Video: ANA@PHI: Kesler buries rebound for second of period
Kesler got the hat trick a little more than a minute into the second period when he skated into the Philadelphia zone, cut to the slot and fired a wrister that snuck under Mason.
Video: PHI@ANA: Kesler beats Mason for the hat trick
The Flyers got back within a goal soon afterward when Gibson couldn't clear the puck out of his crease, and Couturier pounced on it and punched it through.
They tied it another minute later on the power play when Gibson gave up a fat rebound on a point shot and Brayden Schenn swept in the loose puck. That's when he was pulled for Bernier, only to go back in shortly afterward.
"The whole idea was to use it as a timeout," Carlyle said. "I told Bernier he was only going in until the [TV] timeout. Give us three minutes. You couldn't fault [Gibson] on the goals because it was poor defensive-zone coverage from our perspective. But, winning in the NHL isn't easy and we'll take a win."
The Ducks weren't able to improve on their 0-7 record in OT, and four of their last five games have gone to OT or shootout (the previous three being Ducks losses).
In a January in which they play 10 out of 14 games at home, the Ducks will be back at it again Wednesday vs. Detroit at Honda Center.
Video: PHI@ANA: Gibson stops Couturier to seal shootout win