ANAHEIM - For a Ducks team looking desperately for some goal-scoring, the return of The Beard came at the perfect time.
Anaheim got a spark tonight against the visiting New York Islanders from hirsute winger Patrick Eaves, playing his first game of the season after missing the first three with a lower-body injury. Eaves, who also missed significant time in last spring's playoffs, scored a huge goal to give the Ducks a two-goal lead early in the third period on their way to a 3-2 victory at Honda Center.
"We got the win. That was perfect," Eaves said. "We found a way."
The Ducks, who had just two goals in their last two games (and were shutout two nights ago vs. Calgary), improved to 2-1-1 on the young season.
The all-important two-goal lead came 5:32 into the third period, when Josh Manson fed Eaves for a one-timer from the right wing circle that Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak couldn't hold onto as it got under his arm.
Video: NYI@ANA: Eaves beats Halak from sharp angle
"I just shot it at hard as I could. I wasn't really aiming," said Eaves, who had 32 goals last season with Anaheim and Dallas. "I didn't have a great angle, but Mans [Manson] laid a flat puck out there for me so I could get a lot on it. It was just off a set breakout. He lugged it in, took it behind the net and I was finding the soft spot."
But New York got back into it with 12 minutes left on the clock, a little wrister from Brock Nelson that Gibson couldn't glove for Nelson's second on the night.
Anaheim appeared to make it 4-2 on the power play with 8:35 left on another tip play, as offseason acquisition Derek Grant got what looked like the first goal of his NHL career in his 90th game. Grant, who previously played for Ottawa, Calgary, Nashville and Buffalo, got his stick blade on a Brandon Montour shot and snuck it under Halak. The Islanders wiped out the milestone, however, by challenging that the Ducks (Grant, to be more specific) were offside prior to the goal, and officials ruled in their favor after video review.
Instead, Anaheim was forced to hold onto a one-goal cushion for the final 8 1/2 minutes and held strong when New York sent Halak to the bench for an extra attacker in the 90 seconds.
The Ducks struck early, very early, in this one. Manson played the puck off the right wing wall and fired on net, creating a fat rebound off Halak that Andrew Cogliano put away with the backhand just 37 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Video: NYI@ANA: Cogliano sweeps home early rebound
The Ducks had previously led for just 3:30 of the young season, which is how much time was left when they scored the go-ahead goal opening night here against Arizona.
The lead lasted tonight until just under seven minutes remained in the first period, when an Isles shot from the point sailed through traffic and was tipped through from the high slot by Nelson.
Anaheim went back in front 8:39 into the second when Rickard Rakell got a piece of a Cam Fowler point shot and redirected it under Halak to make it 2-1.
Video: NYI@ANA: Rakell pots nifty goal with redirection
"I had a pretty good lane from Cam and I didn't have anybody on me, so it gave me some room to get my stick on the puck," Rakell said. "It was a great shot."
The Ducks never relinquished that lead, thanks in part to Eaves and goalie John Gibson, who saved 39 of 41 Islanders shots in earning his second win of the season.
"Gibby played great in the first period," Eaves said. "I thought it was a good night. We played a good hockey team and got two points. We'll take it."
As part of tonight's game, the Ducks honored victims and those who acted heroically in the tragedy in Las Vegas, as the crowd saluted them during the first timeout of the second period.
"Right now it seems like the start of hockey games have been difficult for us, but we're not going to critique a win," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We won the hockey game. If we had to do that every game and weather the storm and win every game, I don't think we'd complain, but that's just not the right way."
The victory closes out a four-game homestand to begin the series for the Ducks, who next play at Colorado on Friday before returning home for two games.