ANAHEIM - As it has gone almost all of the time since he arrived in Anaheim in 2014, when Ryan Kesler scores a goal at Honda Center, the Ducks win. And the veteran center scored a huge one tonight in leading Anaheim to a hard-fought victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils.
Kesler's goal with 3:40 left in the game stood up as the game-winner in a second straight victory, and it improved the Ducks to a remarkable 20-0-1 record at home when Kesler scores a goal in his two-plus seasons with the franchise. The goal continued a torrid pace for Kesler, who scored his sixth in the last eight games and leads Anaheim with eight goals overall.
In snapping New Jersey's five-game winning streak, the Ducks also leaped into the top spot in the Pacific Division alone for the first time this season, moving two points ahead of second-place Edmonton.
"The team over there kind of lulled us to sleep for the first couple of periods," Kesler said, "but we found a way to bear down and tie it up with two big goals at the end of the second. We were just clawing to get that third one in the end."
After the Ducks and Devils battled through a 2-2 tie for more than 16 minutes in the third, Kesler gave Anaheim its first lead when he pounced on a loose puck left by goalie Cory Schneider in the crease and forced it over the stripe.
Video: NJD@ANA: Kesler scoops in rebound for late lead
Kesler also helped the Ducks defense hold off all New Jersey attempts to get the equalizer down the stretch, wrapping it up when he tied up a big faceoff in the Anaheim end with seven seconds left.
Before that, the Ducks found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the second period, but they got right back in it in a hurry with two goals in 16 seconds. The first came on a beautiful Ryan Getzlaf pass from behind the net that Rickard Rakell one-timed to make it 2-1 New Jersey.
Video: NJD@ANA: Rakell beats Schneider with quick shot
"After that first goal, it didn't feel like the pressure was off, but it felt like everybody got going and we were more positive on the bench," Rakell said. "Especially after the second goal, too. It really gave us energy."
Soon after it, fellow Swede Jakob Silfverberg whipped a beautiful shot from the right wing that dove inside the far post to tie it up.
Video: NJD@ANA: Silfverberg ties things up within 16 seconds
"It brought a lot of energy," Silfverberg said of the back-to-back goals. "It was a big momentum swing. They kind of controlled the game before that and put pressure on us."
New Jersey struck first in the game after a scoreless opening 29 1/2 minutes, via former Duck winger Devante Smith-Pelly, who tipped through a Kyle Quincey one-timer for his second of the season.
Less than five minutes later, the Devils made it 2-0 when Quincey tagged another one-timer that flew over the shoulder of goalie Jonathan Bernier.
But the Ducks remained steadfast in charging back in the second, setting the stage for Kesler's late heroics once again in front of the Anaheim faithful.
"He's a great goal scorer. He's strong," Silfverberg said of Kesler. "The goal he scored tonight, I don't know how many battles he won in front of the net before he put the puck in."
The Ducks will look to win three in a row for the first time this season in the third game of a five-game homestand, Sunday against the rival Kings at Honda Center.
"We did enough to win and had to push ourselves through it," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "We called it a trap game because of our schedule and how we played in our last one. We had a response when it was 2-0 with two quick goals to get back into it. It's a feel-good story for our group."