Three losses to open the season on the road. The Ducks needed to turn things around at home. Fast. The Ducks made baby steps in a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Outscored 13 - 2 in their first three efforts, the Ducks finally got some offense. Ryan Getzlaf looked exceptionally relieved when his power play goal went in at 2:41 of the first period. Unable to convert on the 5 on 3, the Ducks persisted and got their first lead of the season.
"It was nice to be able to calm things down and play hockey," said Getzlaf, who assisted on each of the other Ducks goals. "It didn't matter what the score was. Guys were playing with the puck all night long. That changes the outlook on the game."
The outlook changed again when the lead did not last. Daniel Sedin got a power play goal of his own at 3:57 and :17 seconds later Raffi Torres deflected a shot by Dan Hamhuis to make it 2-1 for the Canucks. Just like that the Ducks were back behind the eight ball.
Unlike previous games, the Ducks kept things close and were actual getting shots on goal. They also were getting more chances handed to them.
In the second period the Ducks were graced with another long 5 on 3 chance. Unlike the first one that looked pretty even, the Ducks took advantage of this one. Teemu Selanne, who has more than one-third of his goals on the power play, got his first goal of the year at 15:09, roofing his shot behind Roberto Luongo. Once more the game was tied.
The Ducks kept themselves out of the penalty box for the most part, but when Bobby Ryan took his second hooking penalty of the game early in the third, it cost them. Christian Ehrhoff ripped a long shot that seemed to be a heat-seeking missile destined for Jonas Hiller. Bodies were no obstacle for the puck that found its target in the net at 5:23. Canucks back in the lead.
The Ducks had other plans, and this time they would not be foiled. After narrowly escaping a weird puck bounce that nearly landed in the net behind Hiller, the Ducks took off the other direction and Corey Perry finished off a slick pass from Getzlaf at 8:54. Perry's arms, raised high in the air, signaled the same level of relief Getzlaf had shown earlier.
Not content to watch his linemates score, Ryan got his first, equally relieved, goal at 10:12 to give the Ducks back the lead. Stealing the puck from a surprised Henrik Sedin, the Ducks took advantage and he, Perry and Getzlaf took off to the races with patient determination.
"We were gripping our sticks a little tight," Ryan observed. "When you get one, good things happen. We got back to the style that we're accustomed to. It's a huge monkey off our backs."
Forget monkey. That thing hanging on them was an adult silverback gorilla.
Vancouver could not be faulted for effort in an attempt even the score, but even with the net empty for the extra attacker, the Canucks could not manage another shot on goal.
"We knew they weren't particularly happy," said Luongo, who stopped 28 shots. "We knew coming in here that they would be a hungry team."
That hunger translated into success, instead of boiling over into frustration and poor choices, as it had in previous games.
"It wasn't pretty," said coach Randy Carlyle, who looked as relieved as his players after the game. "At least its a starting point for us. By no means are we out of the woods yet. We just have to build on this and be ready when we come to work tomorrow."
Baby steps, but at least they are steps in the right direction.