Carter Rowney called it "eerie." Derek Grant said it was, "one of those moments that you only really get from sports." Coach Dallas Eakins may have become the first coach in NHL history to mention the word "religion" in a postgame presser.
Rowney's second period goal off a beautiful assist from Grant in Anaheim's win over the Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center took on added significance on an emotional night at Honda Center. Prior to the game - which happened to be Angels Night - members of the Ducks, Angels and Coyotes all joined the crowd in a tribute and 24-second moment of silence for Kobe Bryant and the victims from Sunday's tragedy in Calabasas. That included Kobe's daughter Gianna, baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester, basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Late in the second period of the game, with the Ducks on the penalty kill, Grant stole the puck in the Arizona end, spun and shot a backhand that caromed off goalie Antti Raanta and was punched in by Rowney.
Video: ARI@ANA: Rowney buries SHG after turnover
Here's where things get strange: The goal came from the Ducks' own No. 24, the jersey number worn by Bryant from 2006 until his retirement in 2016. It came on Anaheim's 24th shot of the game in the 24th home game of the season. And the clock showed 24 seconds had expired on the penalty when the shot went through. Not only that, but Rowney happened to play 24 shifts in the game, and his goal made the score:
"It was all part of a crazy chain of events that happened on that night," Rowney said this morning. "Kind of eerie, but it's pretty cool, just the way things happen and it working out that way. Everything kind of lined up."
Rowney wasn't aware of the coincidences until a graphic was shown on the scoreboard at Honda Center early in the third period, and teammate Max Jones turned to Rowney and said, "Dude, did you see that stat?"
Grant saw it as well and was dumbfounded. "Whoever figured it out that quickly deserves a raise," he said. "It's one of those moments that you only really get from sports. That's a great thing about sports. There is no real answer to it. It's one of those things that happens, and it makes you think, makes you wonder. You see things like that happen, and whatever your beliefs are, it's cool to see."
Eakins too was bewildered by the 24 connections. "For that to happen, I'm not sure what to believe sometimes when it comes to religion and things like that," he said. "But I do wonder, Did that happen by accident? Or, was that part of the night? I get goosebumps just standing here talking about it, that it actually happened tonight."
Eakins was equally moved by the tributes to the nine victims just prior to puck drop. "That's just an unbelievable tragedy for all those families," he said. "Kobe Bryant's family has had an unbelievable, positive effect and influence on Southern California. To honor him tonight, I thought that was incredible right from the players on the ice to what our organization did. But more importantly, those fans up there. It was very surreal, somber and humbling standing on that bench during that moment of silence."
Video: ARI@ANA: Ducks honor Kobe Bryant before game
Rowney doesn't have an interesting story as to why he too wears 24, only that "I came here and it was hanging in my locker. Nothing cool about that." But he was an admirer of Kobe as a fellow professional athlete, and the news of the tragedy struck him and his mates hard.
"A lot of guys have talked about it, you feel for everyone who was involved," Rowney said. "A lot of guys in our locker room have followed Kobe for their whole lives, and it hit them pretty good. It's just tragic and very, very sad for everyone involved."
Grant pointed out that while the whole world was shaken by the tragedy, Orange County felt it in a unique way since all nine of the victims were from here.
"Obviously, it's a terrible tragedy, and a lot of people are affected, especially here in this community," he said. "It's a lot closer here than maybe other places, even though it affected a lot of people worldwide. In Orange County, it's just extra close to home. I think everyone here was either directly involved or knows someone who was."
That made the tribute at Honda Center and the circumstances of that goal even more substantial.
"If you were in the building, or you're watching at home or you see it later on the internet," Grant said, "it kind of takes your breath away in that moment."