There were no formal fights on the ice. Not even roughing penalties. But every shift was a battle for both sides in a well matched game between two teams languishing at the bottom of their respective conferences.
The Ducks had to come back twice from one goal deficits and then figure out how to prevail in overtime. It was worth the effort.
"We didn’t want to go into the road trip on a losing note," said Corey Perry, who had the game winning goal. "Eight games is a long way. It can make or break our season here."
Tuomo Ruutu got a tip in at the end of the first period. He had to take a couple whacks at the puck that was right in front of Jonas Hiller before he could lift it over the goaltender's shoulder and put it in the net at 17:57.
In the second period, the Ducks were finally able to get something past Cam Ward. Lubomir Visnovsky took a shot from the blue line and aimed it towards the traffic in front of the net. Ward was prevented from getting a good look at it and Nick Bonino was able to redirect it at 12:48. Game tied.
Late in the period Niklas Hagman had a great opportunity to give the Ducks their first lead, but instead of roofing the puck into the net, he hit the crossbar. Sprawled defender. Wide open net. Fortunately he did not do that on Monday against Calgary in the shootout, or we might still be there at the Honda Center.
Carolina once again took the lead at 3:47 of the third period. Eric Staal's goal is listed as "unassisted," but Rod Pelley could not have helped out more if he had put it in the net himself. Staal was behind the net and trying to bank a shot off Pelley's skate. Instead, Pelley kicked it and the puck managed to bounce off the back of Hiller's glove and into the net. Weird goal for a weird game.
The lead did not remain for long. At 5:11, Saku Koivu got his 10th goal of the year by banging home Luca Sbisa's rebound. Ward was out of position and had no chance of stopping it.
Ward stopped everything else for the remainder of the game, as did Hiller. So for the third game in a row, the Ducks went to overtime.
There were only three penalties called for the entire game, so it was no surprise when nothing was called in OT. It should have been. Perry tripped up Jussi Jokinen, although Perry threw up his arms in a "who me? Not guilty" look at the refs. He skated away hoping to avoid the consequences and instead picked up a loose puck and put it behind Ward to end the game at 2:14 of the extra period.
"They didn't blow the whistle so you keep playing," said Perry. "We've had calls against us all year, and maybe that's a turning point for us. We'll see."
Coach Bruce Boudreau was more succinct.
"Might have gotten a break," he said.
Needless to say, Carolina coach, Kirk Muller, was left shouting his own version of "ref you suck" at the non call, although Jokinen might have actually caught an edge as he was going around his own net.
Regardless, the outcome was that the Ducks won. They are now 11-3-2 since the beginning of January but are still eight points out of a playoff spot.
Much work will have to be done on this upcoming road trip that begins frighteningly in Detroit. Why is Detroit so scary? The Ducks haven't won there since......the ice age? Maybe not quite that long, but close enough. Getting a point out of the Joe Louis Arena is always a victory. Anything more than that is parting of the Red Sea miraculous. But the Red Sea has parted before.
Eight games, 16 points.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to make something big happen," said Koivu.
This will truly be what determines the rest of the season. It starts Friday in Detroit.