ANAHEIM -- It was just the opener of 82 games this season, but the Ducks made sure to start the 2019-20 season off on the right foot with a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center on Thursday. With head coach Dallas Eakins making his season debut behind the bench, the Ducks came out of the gates with renewed excitement and optimism, and that energy was reciprocated from the raucous sellout crowd of 17,174.
The good vibes began earlier in the day when the Ducks arrived on the orange carpet outside Honda Center's south side. Making good on his promise to bring 21st Duck Lera Doederlein with him to the game, Ryan Getzlaf escorted the 16-year-old sled hockey player (who walks with the use of two prosthetic legs) onto the orange carpet, stopping to sign autographs, pose for photos and hold interviews before entering the arena.
Then, during an emotional pregame player introduction, Doederlein skated onto the ice in her sled to join the Ducks at center ice. There to greet her on the ice by the Zamboni tunnel were former 21st Ducks Kai Quinonez, Katie Hawley and Michael Lu.
Video: 21st Duck Lera Doederlein Introduced On Ice
Once the puck dropped, the Ducks got to work. Derek Grant got things going with a goal at the 14:32 mark of the opening period, which sent the boisterous crowd into a frenzy. His goal came off a rebound after Devin Shore raced in and sent a backhander towards Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Video: ARI@ANA: Grant slides home rebound on the break
"I thought everyone played well today and we have good depth throughout our lineup," said Grant, who finished with a goal and a +2 rating in 16:35 TOI. "We need everyone chipping in, in different ways, every night. If I can chip in with a goal, that's great, but there's a lot of other things we're worried about out there."
After the Coyotes evened the score midway through the second period on Derek Stepan's tally, the Ducks regained the lead when Cam Fowler scored a highlight reel goal with just 32 seconds left in the middle frame. With the goal holding up as the game's winner, Fowler surpassed Scott Niedermayer (8) for the all-time franchise lead in GWG by defensemen.
Video: ARI@ANA: Fowler uses tremendous skill to roof wrister
Eakins said Fowler's goal was "huge," especially at that juncture of the second period. "Any time you can get one of those late in a period like that. It's such a great feeling walking into the room. I thought we had played much better in the second period and to get rewarded like that is big. We've asked Cam to get up the ice and he was up, up, up the ice and he made a great, great play on that goal."
The Ducks needed John Gibson to be great, and he delivered. Cool and calm under pressure, the 26-year-old netminder turned in a 32-save performance for his first victory of the season. Gibson came off a preseason that saw him go 1-0 with a 1.36 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.
With the victory, the Ducks improved to 7-1-3 in their last 11 home games against the Coyotes, earning points in 10 of those 11 (17 of a possible 22 points for a .773 points percentage).
The Ducks will close out their brief two-game home set on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks to Honda Center.