ANAHEIM — Officially, the start of the post-Ryan Getzlaf Era began for the Ducks with a visit from the second-year Seattle Kraken on a wild Wednesday night at Honda Center that ended with a stirring come-from-behind victory.
Troy Terry, the Ducks’ leading scorer from a season ago, got things off to a smashing start with a goal in the opening minute; and then he also contributed the overtime game-winner in an exciting 5-4 victory. The Ducks have now won seven consecutive home openers dating to 2016; but few had this sort of drama.
Trailing 4-2 in the third period, the Ducks rallied to tie the score in regulation; and then won it with a brilliant sequence, orchestrated between Terry and goaltender John Gibson.
Seattle’s Adam Larsson had slipped in behind the Ducks’ defense for an overtime breakaway. Not only did Gibson turn aside the chance, he head-manned the puck off the boards to Terry, who was nearing the end of a long overtime shift.
But Terry found a second wind and raced in on a breakaway of his own, cleverly shifted the puck to his backhand to avoid the back pressure and roofed a shot past goaltender Philipp Grubauer for the game-winning goal.
“There’s no other way to say this, but I was dead tired,” Terry said. “Gibby made a huge save. I saw him looking to play it, so I just tried to take off and see what legs I had. He made a really good play.”
Better than good.
“I just saw we had numbers,” Gibson said of his play on the game-winning goal.
“I told the guys, if you get a chance, take the chance and I’ll do my best to keep it out the other way. Nice play by Troy to score the goal; it was a good comeback. Obviously, we didn’t have the best start in the first half and maybe tighten up that penalty kill and those details. But we had a good third period and found a way to win. Two points is two points.”
Gibson faced 48 shots and Coach Dallas Eakins spoke about how the goaltender kept them in it.
“Massive performance by John Gibson. What a way to start the season for him,” Eakins said. “It gets the adrenaline going – he saves the game and I’m fairly certain he got in on the action on the winning goal. Just a great night. We need more of that mindset that Gibby has through our lineup. We had a number of individuals not doing their job tonight. We suffered through probably 45 minutes of the game with that.”
Without prompting from reporters, Terry praised Gibson for his play at both ends of the ice, noting: “If you want to talk about a guy doing everything in a hockey game, it was John Gibson tonight. He was that good. He’s been that guy for us. We need to help him out, first and foremost. On that play, he makes a big save on a breakaway and then springs me on a breakaway the other way. The guy does it all. He’s our backbone.
“It was fun for me to share that with him, because I told him before we went out there, I’d score if he’d stop them. He did his job. I was just trying to do mine.”
But Terry also cautioned that the Ducks did not have their “A” game for much of the night, and suggested: “We all know we can be a much better hockey team than what we showed tonight. But Game 1, it’s hard to get everything dialed in. We knew what they were going to be. They work hard. They won more battles than we did was kind of the basis of it.
“To be able to rally and win an uphill battle, and with the power play coming through, that was encouraging – especially at the start of the year, you need your power play. Your power play can keep you in these races until your five-on-five game catches up.”
Said Eakins: “I thought he (Terry) had a really solid game. He was one of our few skaters that I thought played very well. His centerman (Ryan Strome), they were in sync together there. And such a strong play at the end.
“That’s a high heart-rate play. … Gibby puts it up. His (Terry’s) heart rate is about as high as you can get and that’s hard to hold off a guy and have enough calmness to finish it. Again, we need that mindset here. You’ve got to do your job. … Troy was certainly in a small group that was doing that tonight.”
The Ducks rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the last 10 minutes on goals from Frank Vatrano and Trevor Zegras to push it to overtime.
The Ducks survived a rough middle section of the game as the Kraken broke down and exposed the Ducks’ penalty kill, going three for four on the man-advantage opportunities at one point.
Beyond Terry’s contribution, it was the newcomers acquired on the first day of free agency in the summer making a significant impact for the Ducks in the season opener. Strome factored in three of the five goals, scoring once and adding two assists, and Vatrano cut the Kraken’s lead to 4-3 with his goal midway through the third.
Scoring for the Kraken were Jared McCann, Andre Burakovsky, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Matty Beniers.
This was the first meeting between two of the top Calder Trophy candidates in the Ducks’ Mason McTavish and Kraken first-liner Beniers. Beniers centered a line of McCann and Burakovsky, while McTavish, who will likely eventually play in the center position down the line, was on the wing on the line with Strome and Terry.
The results of McTavish vs. Beniers: Berniers scored once and added an assist, while McTavish had two assists.
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The game also featured the NHL debut of Ducks forward Pavol Regenda, who was the surprise of training camp and led the Ducks in preseason scoring with seven points. Regenda took the now-traditional rookie solo spin and ended up playing 10 minutes on a line with Max Jones and center Derek Grant, which was a highly effective unit in the preseason.
Regenda was visibly excited after the morning skate about achieving a life-long goal.
“I can’t even describe it,” he said. “It’s going to be a great feeling on the ice today. I’ll enjoy every second. I worked for it for a long time so hopefully, I can stay here for a long time. I got messages from a lot of people from back home. We have great fans, great people back home.” He noted that the start time of the game would be 4 a.m. in Slovakia but also added his countrymen were used to staying up late to watch NHL games.
“It’s going to be a long night for our Slovakian people who like hockey,” Regenda said.
The now-retired Getzlaf won’t be replaced as captain by one player. Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek said on the opening day of training camp that there won’t be a rush to do so, and the Ducks plan to rotate the “A,” signifying alternate captains, through their leadership group. For the game against the Kraken, the three alternates were Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler and Jakob Silfverberg.