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Kesler's overtime goal lifts Ducks past Sharks

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- Ryan Kesler kept shooting and finally found the back of the net in time to send the Anaheim Ducks merrily into the Christmas break.

Kesler scored on a wrist shot from the left circle that got past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi to the far side 58 seconds into overtime to give Anaheim a 3-2 win at Honda Center on Monday. The goal came after an Anaheim 4-on-3 power play expired, and also after Kesler hit the post in the second period and was stopped by Niemi earlier in overtime.

"Third time's a charm, right?" Kesler said. "Obviously when you score in that fashion it's always exciting. We really wanted this one going into the break and end on a good note. I think we've all been on the other side where you lose going into the break and you think about it for three days and you sit on it. We're going to enjoy this one and re-energize and come back."

The Ducks (23-8-5) became the first team in the NHL to have more than 50 points going into the Christmas break. They erased a 2-1 deficit in the third and stretched their lead to eight points over San Jose in the Pacific Division.

"We felt that we were coming along and coming along," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "As a group, it's kind of the mentality that we never give up, and you saw the result of that."

Anaheim's 51 points come with more than 200 man-games lost to injury. That includes 13 games without right wing Corey Perry, and the Ducks are 7-2-4 in that scenario.

The Sharks (19-11-5) had their five-game winning streak snapped, but have points in 11 of their past 12 games (9-1-1). Niemi made 29 saves in an outstanding duel with Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, who made 30 saves and carried them early.

Niemi had won seven straight.

"That was kind of the thing … both goalies were really good," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "[Niemi] had some awesome saves and they were fun to watch. You don't want to give up those chances, but when he's going like that, we can be aggressive and play our system."

San Jose was fewer than five minutes from victory when Fowler tied it 2-2. Fowler pinched, took a pass from Ryan Getzlaf and put a backhand shot past Niemi at 15:44 of the third. Fowler then tumbled to the ice.

"Probably not one of my better moments, into a barrel roll," Fowler said. "It's one of those things where the excitement of the goal kind of took over. I wasn't trying to showboat or anything. This game meant a lot to us as a team. I was just excited that we were able to tie it up and give our group a chance."

The Sharks were poised to have Melker Karlsson's first NHL goal stand as the game-winner when his slap shot from above the right circle trickled five-hole through Andersen at 7:56 of the third period.

It came in the sixth NHL game for Karlsson, whose goal stunned the standing-room only crowd of 17,405.

"It doesn't surprise me," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "He continues to have an impact in every game he plays, in every situation. He just goes about his business. Credit to him; he's taken advantage of the opportunity he's earned to get here."

Pavelski's NHL-leading ninth power-play goal tied it 1-1 in the third. Pavelski redirected Brent Burns' shot at 2:00 with Clayton Stoner in the penalty box for hooking Joe Thornton. The goal moved Pavelski past Owen Nolan for second on San Jose's goal-scoring list at 207.

Despite the lost point, the Sharks enter the holiday break feeling well.

"Right now it stings a little that we've lost tonight, but we're going to park it," McLellan said. "This is the time of year where we can forget about hockey now for a couple of days. I expect all our players to turn their brains off and enjoy the time with their families. We'll worry about the points and the standings and playoffs and all that next week."

Rickard Rakell scored his first regular-season goal when he knocked in the puck from the slot at 7:20 of the second while Sharks defensemen Justin Braun tried to clear it. The puck caromed off the side of the net on a cycle by Emerson Etem and Matt Beleskey.

Rakell, who scored his first NHL goal in the 2014 Western Conference Second Round series against the Los Angeles Kings, had played 46 regular-season games without a goal.

Andersen kept San Jose off the scoreboard with 15 saves in the first period and 20 in the first 27 minutes. He gloved Pavelski's wrist shot on a 3-on-1 less than four minutes into the game and made a right-pad save on Tomas Hertl late in the first.

Anaheim right wing Tim Jackman left the game in the second period and did not return after he was hit by John Scott near the Ducks net. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau did not have an update.

Getzlaf filled in on Jackman's line and played a season-high 25:02.

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