It was like a bad case of Déjà vu, but this time, the Ducks found a way. Depth production highlighted the night for Anaheim, which received goals from Chris Wagner and Ryan Garbutt, in addition to Corey Perry, who added a goal in the second period to lift Anaheim to its first victory of the season - a 3-2 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
The Ducks earned the victory despite giving the opposition an eye-opening seven power plays for the second consecutive game.
Rookie right wing Nick Sorensen recorded his first career NHL point on Garbutt's goal, while veteran center Antoine Vermette earned his first point as a Duck with an assist on Perry's game-tying marker in the second period. John Gibson was spectacular again, turning aside 20-of-22 shots for his first victory of the season.
"When you're on the road, you have to find points and ways to win," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "It's about time we found a way to win a hockey game. I liked our demeanor as far as going out and competing in the small areas. We're going to need to have more of that."
Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read tallied the goals for Philadelphia in its home opener, while Steve Mason stopped 23-of-26 shots in the loss.
Anaheim's persistent forecheck paid off when the club's fourth line came through with the game's opening goal. Wagner, who came oh-so close two nights ago on a penalty shot, made no mistake this time with a snap shot that snuck between the body and blocker of Mason. It marked Wagner's fifth career NHL goal, but his first with Anaheim. The play started with Sami Vatanen's stretch pass that found Jared Boll, who had a step on the Flyers defense. Feeling the pressure, Boll made a drop pass to the oncoming Wagner who used defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere as the screen.
The goal capped off an impressive opening period for the Ducks, arguably their best 20 minutes of hockey all season.
But penalty trouble once again plagued Anaheim to begin the second period, and it got burned when Vermette was sent to the box for closing his hand on the puck. A tic-tac-toe sequence ultimately led to Simmonds redirecting a pass behind Gibson for his third goal of the season.
Read pushed the Flyers to a 2-1 lead with 9:34 remaining in the second period on a nice rush up the ice that saw him blow past Vatanen before scooting one underneath the sprawling Gibson. The goal was Read's team-leading fourth tally of the season, all of which scored in the past three games.
After two more trips to the penalty box following Read's goal, the Ducks answered back at the 16:42 mark of the second period when Perry's slap shot pinged off the far-side post and into the net. The goal came seconds after he stepped out of the box, and silenced the sellout crowd of 19,982 at Wells Fargo Center.
"The defensive side of hockey is about structure and outworking the opposition," said Carlyle. "Tonight we were fortunate enough that our penalty killers rose to the occasion. We taxed them far too many times, but we're not going to critique a win. Wins have been hard to come by. Our penalty killers did a staunch job tonight, and we had a team effort from our hockey club. That's what it takes to win on the road."
Despite taking six penalties in the middle period, five of which resulted in Flyers power plays, the Ducks came away with a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes.
Anaheim came out flying in the third period and was rewarded at the 11:34 mark when the club's third line came through with a tremendous shift in the offensive zone. After Sorensen narrowly missed scoring his first career NHL goal, Korbinian Holzer corralled the loose puck at the far boards and took it behind the net where he eventually found Garbutt with a nice backdoor pass that he buried the give the Ducks a 3-2 lead. Though he left the ice to retrieve a new stick, Sorensen was credited with the secondary assist - his first career point in the NHL.
"That was one of the best passes I've ever gotten from a defenseman from behind the net," said Garbutt. "It was awesome being on the other end of that. It was a great pass from Holzer. I was just in the right spot at the right time."
The Ducks would continue to apply pressure for the remainder of regulation, and held the Flyers to only eight shots in the third period.
As the buzzer sounded, the Ducks exhaled. After all the near-misses, frustration and disappointment that encompassed the road trip, their efforts finally paid off in the form of a victory. They'll fly home tomorrow morning and play their own home opener on Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center.
"It's definitely a big win for the boys," said Garbutt. "It was a tough road trip for us with all of those home openers. It's going to be fun playing in front of our own fans."
NOTE: Prior to the game, the Flyers raised a banner to the rafters honoring the late Ed Snider, co-founder of the Flyers, who passed away on April 11 after a two-year battle with bladder cancer. With this being the team's 50th season in the NHL, the Flyers wore a special 50th anniversary jersey that featured a commemorative shoulder patch and gold numbers - in honor of the franchise's "golden anniversary." The Flyers will wear these jerseys 11 more times at home this season.