After only managing to score four goals combined in its first three games of this six-game road trip, Anaheim's offense roared to life in a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at KeyBank Center. Corey Perry had the kind of breakthrough performance he so desperately needed, tying his season high for points in a single game (3) with two goals and an assist to snap Anaheim's three-game losing streak.
"The puck found me tonight," said Perry. "I had some time and my linemates played well. They got me the puck."
Rickard Rakell, Antoine Vermette and Andrew Cogliano also tacked on goals for the Ducks, who improved to 29-17-10 (68 points) overall. The win also pushed Anaheim's record to 12-5-4 since Christmas. John Gibson turned aside 22 shots for his 21st victory of the season - tying his career high for wins in a season - established in 2015-16. This also marked the first time in club history that the Ducks put up 44 shots or more in consecutive games (also 44 on Tuesday against the New York Rangers).
"You look at last game, and we put up 44 shots," said Perry. "If we continue doing that, we're going to get rewarded. We didn't get rewarded in the last game, but we stuck with what we did and brought it over to this game. Tonight we found a way to get the puck in the back of the net."
Jack Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen scored for Buffalo, which fell to 22-22-10 (54 points) this season. Robin Lehner made 39 saves in the loss, his 15th defeat in 36 appearances (13-15-6).
Just when it seemed like the score would remain scoreless after 20 minutes, Perry busted out of his grueling offensive slump with a goal that harkened back to the old days. After out-muscling Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe for a loose puck at the far corner, Perry carried the mail behind Buffalo's net before squirming and shifting his body to create space on the other side. After curling back into the slot, Perry had time and space to fire a shot that beat Lehner five-hole with 2.4 seconds remaining in the period. The goal was just his 10th of the season, and it was evident that it lifted a considerable amount of weight off his shoulders.
Video: ANA@BUF: Perry shows patience, scores from slot
"It brings everybody up," said Brandon Montour, on Perry's breakout performance. "Pears is a leader on our team. I haven't been here for too long, but I knew the situation. It happens. Tonight was a good night for him. Hopefully he can keep it going."
The opening period wasn't without its hairy moments for Anaheim, which nearly allowed the game's first goal just 40 seconds after the puck dropped had Gibson not come up big with several key stops at the goal mouth. Perry's goal, meanwhile, was the only blemish on Lehner's first-period stat sheet. He had to be good throughout the period, which included a stellar glove save on Josh Manson, who tried to pick the far corner on his off-wing on a 2-on-1 chance with Vermette. Two shifts later, Lehner made a point-blank save on Jakob Silfverberg's breakaway opportunity.
Gibson's best stop in the first period came on a sprawling blocker save on McCabe - identical to the save he made on Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey two nights ago at Madison Square Garden.
Video: ANA@BUF: Gibson stretches to turn away McCabe
Because of an issue with Gibson's skate before the second period began, Jonathan Bernier was forced into action for the opening 5:41 of the middle frame. Bernier made two saves in his brief relief appearance before Gibson returned.
Eichel evened the score with a quick one-timer off the draw two seconds after Buffalo began its first power play of the evening. The goal was his 13th of the season and 26th point in 33 games.
After jawing at one another for several seconds away from the play, Jared Boll and Nicolas Deslauriers squared up in a lengthy heavyweight tilt. Both players eventually came to rest along the near glass before the officials stepped in. The scrap marked Boll's 12th fighting major of the season.
The Ducks regained the lead 55 seconds into the third period when Rakell scored his team-leading 22nd goal of the season - a blistering one-timer from his off-wing that started with Perry's pass from the high slot. Lehner played Perry to shoot the entire way, thus leaving the entire half of the net exposed when Rakell stationed himself just above the left post.
Video: ANA@BUF: Rakell one-times Perry's feed past Lehner
With Ryan O'Reilly in the penalty box with a double-minor for high-sticking Ryan Getzlaf in the face, the Ducks increased their lead to 3-1 when Vermette got a piece of Montour's point shot at the 5:46 mark of the third period. Not since their 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on January 31 had the Ducks scored more than twice - a span of three games. The goal was a long time coming for the veteran center, who ended a 19-game goalless drought.
Video: ANA@BUF: Vermette tips home a power-play goal
Still riding a wave of momentum, Perry pushed Anaheim's lead to 4-1 when he pounced on a fat rebound on the far side for his second goal and third point of the game at the 10:11 mark of the third period. His three-point performance tied his season high for points in a game, first set on November 6 vs. Calgary (three assists).
Video: ANA@BUF: Perry roofs rebound for second of the game
Ristolainen made it a 4-2 game with his fourth goal of the season - a backhander that went top shelf - with 1:38 remaining in regulation.
With the extra attacker on the ice for the Sabres, Cogliano responded with an empty-net goal - his 11th of the season - to put the Ducks up 5-2 with 56 remaining in regulation.
Video: ANA@BUF: Cogliano's empty-netter secures Ducks' win
"It's huge," Perry said, on the win. "You don't want to go 0-3-1 to start. It's a long trip and we knew that if we got off to a good start tonight, we'd be all right."
Following tonight's game, the Ducks will travel to Washington D.C. to take on the Capitals on Saturday night at Verizon Center.