A look at the slate of opponents before the Anaheim Ducks 5-game road trip could have been worrisome for a team struggling to find its identity. Nashville, Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina, and Washington would undoubtedly be a steep hill to climb for any team, let alone one with the struggles Anaheim has faced this season.
But a wild Sunday matinee tilt in the nation’s capital would instead prove to be an epic and triumphant statement that Anaheim would not go quietly into lottery.
Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin put the Ducks on their heels early off a 2-on-1 that most people probably saw the greatest goal-scorer of all time shooting on. Instead, an M. Night Shyamalan twist reared its head as Ovechkin delivered a nice pass to Backstrom to finish the goal in an opposite alternate universe.
Chandler Stephenson would double the lead after he flung a puck on net that bounced off of Jake Dotchin’s skate and behind Gibson. Ryan Getzlaf would cut the lead in half and give the Ducks some life, however, after a rebound off a Rakell shot, he beat Dimitri Orlov to a puck and swatted it past Braden Holtby.
The game would appear to slide out of reach for the Ducks, however, when Tom Wilson tipped in a John Carlson shot to make it 3-1 Capitals. Randy Carlyle pulled John Gibson and replaced him with Ryan Miller in an effort to wake up the team in front and send a message that he wasn’t going to let his goaltender be the victim of a beating by the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
The 2nd period would see Washington pull away with goals by Nic Down and a beautiful deke by Evegny Kuznetsoz for a 5-1 lead.
It appeared that Anaheim had enough of being dominated late in the second, when Andrew Cogliano went hard to the net and, through pure effort and hard work, got his second goal of the year cleaning up a loose puck in front of Holtby. Rickard Rakell would follow up with a much needed tally off a pass to the front of the net by Adam Henrique. Rakell initially rang the shot off the post, but got his own rebound and scored to make the game interesting at 5-3 to end the middle frame.
The Ducks hadn’t had enough once the 3rd period started. A boarding penalty by Orlov would allow Pontus Aberg, playing on the right point of the 2nd power play unit, to fire an accurate wrister through a great screen by Nick Ritchie to bring the Ducks within one. Orlov would then inexplicably take another boarding penalty just right after that allowed Hampus Lindholm to tie the game off a brilliant feed from Ryan Kesler.
Aberg once again put the cherry on top to give Anaheim the lead when Ryan Getzlaf couldn’t get to a Kiefer Sherwood pass due to being tied up with a defender. Aberg found the puck at his feet after Holtby was down and out after an attempted poke check and finished it off to complete the comeback.
Miraculously, Anaheim pulled off 4 wins from a difficult 5-game road trip against mostly good teams. They now find themselves just one point behind Calgary for the lead in the Pacific Division and 4 points clear of a playoff spot.
Best and Worst
Best: Historic comeback
Many people had turned off the game by the time the score ran to 5-1. But by storming back from a 4-goal deficit showed that this team does not have quit in them. The comeback marked the first time in NHL history that a team had come back from trailing by 4-goals to beat a defending Stanley Cup Champion at home.
Worst: Digging out from that deep of a deficit
As amazing as the comeback was, the fact that they had to even claw their way back from giving up 5 goals in the first half of the game didn’t exactly reflect well on the team. While it’s nice to see the team have plenty of fight, this is not the type of strategy that’s going to win them games night in and night out.
Best: Aberg the goal scoring leader
We’re more than a quarter of the way through the season, and a waiver pickup is leading the goal-scoring race for the Ducks. There’s no way anyone saw that coming before the year began.
3. Hampus Lindholm
2. Ryan Getzlaf
1. Pontus Aberg