AnaheimDucks.com will count down the top 25 moments from the past season in the coming weeks. Here is the third installment: 11-15.
15. NOVEMBER 2, 2014
LaBARBERA CAPS OFF WHIRLWIND DAY WITH VICTORY
As a veteran of 11 NHL seasons and another seven spent in the American Hockey League, Jason LaBarbera is well aware of the trials and tribulations associated with being a player used at both levels. But nothing, he says, came close to his whirlwind experience last November when he was called upon in an emergency starting role at Pepsi Center.
A wakeup call at his residence in Norfolk, Virginia, had LaBarbera up at 4:30 a.m. for his early morning flight to Denver. Arriving at Pepsi Center just a few hours before game time, LaBarbera was expected to back up John Gibson, who got the start because Frederik Andersen experienced tightness in his leg. But when Gibson went down with a lower-body injury during warmups, LaBarbera was called into action with 45-year-old goaltending consultant Dwayne Roloson serving as his backup netminder. With his teammates doing everything in their power to limit Colorado’s opportunities, LaBarbera faced only 18 shots for his first NHL win since Oct. 7, 2013 with Edmonton. Keep in mind this was LaBarbera’s third game in as many days.
Following the victory, an exhausted LaBarbera reflected on his whirlwind day. “I’m pretty tired, but what an effort by the guys,” he said. “I haven’t been around the team much, but that was a pretty impressive effort by everybody. You never know what to expect. The guys were unreal in front of me.
“I’ve been in a lot of tough situations in my career, but that was probably the hardest one I’ve been in.”
14. MARCH 2, 2015
DUCKS MAKE BIG SPLASH ON TRADE DEADLINE DAY
Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray took the NHL Trade Deadline by storm, making a plethora of moves to improve his club. Murray acquired defenseman James Wisniewski and a 2015 third-round draft pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rene Bourque, William Karlsson and a 2015 second-round pick. Murray also sent defenseman Ben Lovejoy to Pittsburgh for former first-round pick Simon Despres in a trade heralded as one of the best of the season.
Veteran blueliner Eric Brewer and a 2016 fifth-round pick were dealt to Toronto for Korbinian Holzer, while depth defenseman Mat Clark was traded to Colorado for prospect Michael Sgarbossa and a conditional 2015 seventh-round pick.
Two days prior, Murray acquired veteran forward Tomas Fleischmann from Florida in exchange for Dany Heatley and a 2015 third-round pick, and four days before that acquired 22-year-old Jiri Sekac from Montreal for Devante Smith-Pelly.
At just 23 years of age, Despres earned his spot on a talented and deep Ducks blueline and became one of the club’s most impactful players in the postseason. Shortly after the trade, Murray shared his thoughts on the talented defenseman.
“There are always guys who, especially for me, as a guy who likes to get out and look at the draft picks, there are always guys you liked,” Murray said. “You keep watching them. You ask about them over time. This is somebody we had asked about on a few occasions whenever we talked to Pittsburgh. It goes back to [former Penguins General Manager] Ray Shero and now to Jimmy [Executive Vice President and General Manager Jim Rutherford]. It was Jimmy who came to me with this one. This is one of those guys that I’ve watched and liked, and wanted to get my hands on.”
13. NOVEMBER 20, 2014
KESLER RETURNS TO VANCOUVER
In one of the most anticipated games on the NHL schedule, Ryan Kesler returned to the place he had called home for his entire NHL career. The 30-year-old centerman, acquired by Anaheim last June in a blockbuster deal with the Vancouver Canucks, spent the first 10 seasons of his NHL career in Vancouver after the club drafted him in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft. Kesler racked up 393 points (182g/211a) with a +25 rating and 594 penalty minutes in 655 career NHL games with the Canucks. In 2011, Kesler was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy (given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game) and named to the All-Star Team.
The reception was less than welcoming, as Kesler was met with a heavy chorus of boos every time he touched the puck. That was just fine for the polarizing Livonia, Michigan native, who said the night before that the boos would only give him additional motivation.
Eight Ducks found the scoresheet in the win, and Jakob Silfverberg clinched the victory with his NHL-best fourth shootout goal of the season.
After the game, Kesler remarked on his return. “It feels good. There is history there,” he said. “I was enjoying the moment. It’s not every day that you can come back and go into a shootout against your former team. It was a great win by the boys tonight.”
12. APRIL 1, 2015
DUCKS CLAIM PACIFIC DIVISION TITLE VS. OILERS
Less than a week after clinching a postseason berth, the Ducks claimed their third consecutive Pacific Division title with a 5-1 victory vs. the Edmonton Oilers at Honda Center. The win served as the club’s 50th of the season, a mark reached for the second consecutive season.
It was merely a feather in the cap for the Ducks, who went about business as usual following the victory.
“Until we reach our goal, I don’t think anyone will be satisfied,” said Andrew Cogliano. “It’s an achievement because the league is tough. There are a ton of good teams. To be able to be in our spot speaks to the team we have.”
Corey Perry became only the fourth Duck to record 600 career points with his 33rd goal of the season, while Francois Beauchemin took over sole possession of second on the franchise defenseman all-time assists list (126).
11. MARCH 3, 2015
KESLER DAZZLES WITH SHORTHANDED GOAL IN THE DESERT
There are players in this league who have the ability to make something out of nothing. And on this night at Gila River Arena, Ryan Kesler’s sheer determination and skill was on full display.
Arizona’s two-minute power play was all but 15 seconds old when Kesler outmuscled Coyotes forward Sam Gagner to a loose puck in the neutral zone. Shaking off Gagner with one arm, Kesler entered the zone with all-world defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson closing in. Still hounded by Gagner, Kesler cut against the grain with a nifty move to slip the puck between Ekman-Larsson’s feet and found himself closing in on goaltender Mike Smith. After being hooked by Gagner, Kesler (in one motion) was able to get off a shot as he was falling down that beat Smith over the blocker. Kesler slid on his back following the goal, and was soon met by Jakob Silfverberg and Cam Fowler.
“I just saw the puck squeak loose,” said Kesler, on his goal. “I felt Gagner all over me, and then I made the move to the inside. I just had to get body position and get a shot off. I got lucky and scored a goal.”
Kesler’s goal is currently a finalist for TSN’s Play of the Year, which fans can vote for HERE. The voting closes tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT.