Rickard Rakell knew it was only a matter of time before he'd finally get the monkey off his back. Tonight was that night. The 26-year-old left wing had been mired in a frustrating 15-game drought, but he snapped it in dramatic fashion with a wrist shot from the right dot to give the Ducks a gutsy 4-3 overtime victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Only 1.2 seconds remained in overtime when Rakell's wrist shot sailed over Avs goaltender Pavel Francouz' glove. Rakell's relief was evident in his goal celebration, lifting his arms skyward before being mobbed by his teammates.
The Ducks managed to do something no other team has been able to do since Feb. 17 - hand the Avalanche a loss. Despite this being the second game of a back-to-back that opened with a lopsided loss last night in Chicago, the Ducks did a lot of things right tonight to snap Colorado's season-high seven-game winning streak.
Video: ANA@COL: Rakell snipes it far side to win game in OT
The Ducks went toe-to-toe with one of the league's best teams and stuck to them like Velcro for most of the game. They erased an early deficit with a goal from newcomer Andrew Agozzino, who scored his second career goal against his former club. Then, they kept the momentum going, taking a 2-1 leading into the first intermission after Brendan Guhle scored an impressive backdoor goal on a nifty feed from Rakell.
They were provided outstanding goaltending from the ageless wonder, Ryan Miller, who tonight earned his 386th career NHL win to surpass Mike Vernon (385) for sole possession of 15th place on the NHL's all-time wins list. Miller also matched Tom Barrasso (777) for second place on the NHL's all-time games played list among U.S.-born goaltenders and passed Barrasso (755) for second on the NHL all-time games started list for U.S.-born goalies.
Miller saved his best for last, when he denied Avs defenseman Samuel Girard on a clear-cut breakaway with a key blocker save that prolonged overtime long enough for Rakell to deliver.
"It's been tough lately, but that one felt good," said Rakell. "It was a team effort tonight. A lot of our regular [defensemen] were out. The guys from San Diego filling in for them did a great job."
No doubt, the Ducks' defense was tested tonight, but they held firm. Already without their top-four defensemen Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Erik Gudbranson and most recently Josh Manson, the Ducks had to patch together a blueline that featured 27-year-old Jani Hakanpaa, who was recalled from AHL San Diego. Tonight marked his NHL debut after being drafted 10 years ago by the St. Louis Blues.
It was a comeback effort for the Ducks, who have won three straight in Denver and four of the last five overall vs. Colorado. They improved to 45-36-13 all-time vs. the Avs, including a 21-19-7 mark at Pepsi Center.
The Avs opened the scoring just 3:51 into the game when Vladislav Namestnikov crashed the crease and beat Miller for his 15th goal of the season. It marked his second goal with the Avs after coming over via trade from the Ottawa Senators for a fourth-round selection in the 2021 NHL Draft on trade deadline day.
The Ducks answered back less than two minutes later when Agozzino pounced on a loose puck in the slot for his first goal of the season (and his first with the Ducks). Ironically, he scored his first career NHL goal with the Avs on Feb. 18, 2019 vs. Vegas.
Video: ANA@COL: Rowney sets up Agozzino's first goal of year
Anaheim took the lead at the 13:40 mark of the opening frame when Guhle slid down from the right point and buried a nifty backdoor feed from Rakell for his fourth career NHL goal (all scored this season).
Video: ANA@COL: Guhle rips loose puck by Francouz for lead
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, playing with a broken nose suffered two nights ago in Detroit, evened the score 49 seconds later when he circled the right faceoff dot and sent a wrist shot over Miller's glove for his 19th goal of the season.
Sam Steel gave the Ducks a 3-2 lead at the 12:48 mark of the second period when he one-timed a nice feed from Ryan Getzlaf with one second left on the power play for his sixth goal of the season. It marked the first time the Avs allowed three goals in their last eight games.
Video: ANA@COL: Getzlaf, Steel connect to put Ducks ahead
The lead held until the 7:19 mark of the third when Nathan MacKinnon raced down the left wing and fired a shot past Miller for his 34th goal of the season.
Rakell's overtime winner was his 14th goal of the season. It also served as his first overtime winner this season and the sixth of his career.
The Ducks will open a four-game homestand beginning Friday vs. Toronto.