ANAHEIM – As comfortable as the Ducks have been at Honda Center this season, they sure made it tense for their fans tonight.
Anaheim continued its dominance at home, but needed a late tying goal from Nick Bonino in regulation and the game-winner with less than a second left in OT to slip past the visiting Canucks, 4-3. The win was the 13th in the last 14 for the Ducks, who improved to a staggering 17-0-2 at Honda Center with a seventh straight win in the building.
"When you have a belief you can win," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, "you're never out of the game."
But it appeared for a long time Anaheim’s standing as the only NHL team without a regulation loss at home would be in jeopardy, as the Ducks trailed by a goal late in the game despite outshooting the Canucks 40-7 in the second and third periods. Bonino ultimately tied it after the Ducks tried repeatedly to get the equalizer but were constantly denied by Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack (45 saves). Finally Bonino connected with 2:27 left, taking in a Daniel Winnik pass in the slot and flinging off a diving Kevin Bieksa and past Lack.
"It does get a little frustrating, but we have confidence in this building and with our team," Bonino said. "Lack played a hell of a game. Once I didn’t get that overtime breakaway, I wasn’t sure if I’d get another one, but we never gave up. With 0.6 seconds left, Corey [Perry] finds a way to worm it in."
Lack was virtually Vancouver’s only hope tonight, as Roberto Luongo was injured in a 3-1 loss last night against the Kings and was not in the lineup. The Canucks were forced to sign and suit up local goalie Rob Laurie of Corona for the game. The 43-year-old Laurie was an emergency goalie for the Ducks last April when Hiller came down with a late injury.
And Lack finally looked vulnerable late in overtime, as Ryan Getzlaf took in the puck at the blue line and calmly sent it ahead to Perry, who whipped a shot between Lack’s legs for the winner with just 0.6 seconds on the clock. That ignited the home fans among the sellout crowd of 17,174 as the Ducks came pouring off the bench to celebrate near the glass.
The Ducks were on a 4-on-3 power play on the game-winner, as Nick Bonino was hooked by Kevin Bieksa on the way to the net with 1:06 left in OT. They appeared to be headed for a shootout before Perry came through virtually out of nowhere.
"I knew there wasn’t much time left, coming into the zone," said Perry, who got his first goal since December 17 at Detroit. "I saw a couple seconds on the clock, and just yelled for the puck. I knew I would shoot it right away. It wasn’t hard, but it probably fooled him more than anything. It found a way in. Of all the places I shot tonight, a trickler is the one that goes in."
Vancouver had taken the lead a little over a minute into the third, as Bieksa’s shot from the point sailed through traffic and got past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller.
Vancouver scored the game's opening two goals on the power play, courtesy of Ryan Kessler and Henrik Sedin, in a sluggish first period for Anaheim.
"If you look at the way we started, we weren’t playing our game," Perry said. "We took a couple of penalties and they capitalized right away. Those are things you learn from. You can’t keep doing that and coming back against good teams."
But the Ducks came roaring back in the second period, scoring twice and establishing a season-best by holding the Canucks to just two shots in the period. In fact, Vancouver didn’t get a shot on net until 2:12 remained in the frame.
Meanwhile, the Ducks showed it was their period just 24 seconds into it, as Jakob Silfverberg had plenty of room with the puck between the circles and rocketed a slap shot that hit goalie Eddie Lack and got behind him. The goal was credited to Saku Koivu, who was in front looking for the tip.
Anaheim tied it with 3:22 left in the period on the rush, as Kyle Palmieri bounced a pass to a charging Matt Beleskey, who swept it through beautifully with the backhand.
"We found a way to take over the game in the second," Perry said. "We started skating, started hitting, and getting the pucks in deep. It carried over into the third period. They got that early goal, but we never backed down. We just kept grinding away."
Added Boudreau, "After the first period, we were pretty down. We got dominated pretty good. But I thought our will and our character in the last two periods was never say die. No matter how many chances we had, I thought it was really tremendous."