ANAHEIM - Leave it to Rickard Rakell to break the Anaheim Ducks out of the doldrums of 3-on-3 overtime.
Rakell scored the game-winner just 54 seconds into OT to give the Ducks a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Honda Center and improve upon a troublesome 1-8 record in the extra session entering tonight.
With the Ducks on a power play, Rakell picked up the puck off a Ryan Kesler faceoff win and slung it from the left wing circle past frozen goalie Ben Bishop, igniting the Honda Center crowd as players poured off the Anaheim bench to mob Rakell.
Video: TBL@ANA: Rakell dances through traffic for OT winner
"I'm just trying to jump on the puck after the faceoff," Rakell said. "We're on the power play and they only have three guys, so if there's open ice for me, I'm not going to hesitate to shoot. It was nice to see it go in."
It was not only a rare overtime winner for the Ducks, but it vaulted Rakell into the team lead for goals with 19 (in just 36 games). The Ducks, who have won seven of the last nine and have points in 12 of their last 13, improved their lead in the Pacific Division to four points.
Despite shouting, "Yay, we won in overtime!" to start his session with media in the Ducks locker room, captain Ryan Getzlaf said, "We try not to get too high in overtimes or shootouts. Our guys did a good job battling tonight. We're finding ways to get points. Tonight we got both."
Although it was a short-lived power play, it broke an 0-for-13 streak for the Ducks, which included four missed opportunities in regulation tonight. Anaheim had been 1 for the last 29 on the power play since scoring twice on the man advantage back on December 29 against Calgary.
After Tampa and Anaheim scored within seconds of each other in the second period, neither was able to break a 1-1 tie over the final 35 minutes of regulation, giving way to the 10th overtime of Anaheim's season. The Ducks got an opportunity early when Tyler Johnson was whistled for hooking Cam Fowler in the Tampa zone, giving room for Rakell to end it soon after the ensuing draw at the other end.
"We're all learning as we go with this thing," Getzlaf said of the 3-on-3 OT format that was instituted prior to last season. "You play 3-on-3 as a kid and it's almost like pond hockey out there. It's hard to keep your focus on playing both ends of the rink and figuring out what to do. It's the only real situation where you play man-to-man hockey. Tonight we were able to get it done."
The Ducks went without a shot on goal for the first 8 1/2 minutes and only had two for the entire first period.
Still, it was scoreless until 4:26 into the second frame when Valtteri Filppula punched in a Nikita Nesterov pass from the top of the crease after it had caromed off Fowler.
Anaheim countered with a goal just 21 seconds later on the sixth goal of the year from Getzlaf, who picked off a Tampa clearing attempt and shuttled it past an unready Bishop.
Video: TBL@ANA: Getzlaf picks off puck and wrists it home
That was it for the scoring the rest of regulation, thanks in part to Ducks goalie John Gibson, who had another strong night with 27 saves.
"The power play didn't look real good and we weren't cohesive in the opportunities we had earlier in the hockey game," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "But when you get a 4-on-3 in overtime, you're supposed to score. A goal scorer went out and scored a goal. Simple as that. Overall, the view on the game, our goalie was the first star tonight."
The Ducks are at it again two nights from now when they take on Colorado at Honda Center.
"I hope we win every game, but I hope we don't have to go to overtime every time," Rakell said. "It was sure nice to get it on the power play and get it in overtime."