Wednesday, 12.7.2011 / 8:42 AM PT
|Photos don't get much more awesome than this.
I haven’t heard it this loud in here in a long time.
Since the last time the Kings were in this building – back on November 17 – the Ducks had endured six games and only one win. That was a long-awaited victory on November 30 against Montreal in what would turn out to be Randy Carlyle’s last night as coach. But the roar in the building that night couldn’t hold a candle to what we heard last night –
when Ryan scored with 48.8 seconds left, when Jonas Hiller made a desperation save with two seconds left and when time mercifully ran out on what is unquestionably the Ducks’ biggest victory of the year.
To qualify it: It was Bruce Boudreau’s first win as Ducks coach after two painful losses. It came in the throes of a losing trend that we haven’t seen the likes of in quite some time. And oh yes, it came against Anaheim’s bitter rivals, who had already beaten the Ducks on back-to-back nights last month.
Not to mention, it came on a night when the Ducks jumped out to a 2-0 lead, normally a good thing for a hockey club, but an uh oh moment for the Ducks lately. After all, they went up 2-0 in their last two games (Boudreau’s first two as coach) and lost both of them. And just like in those games, the Ducks allowed the opponent to claw their way back, giving up a late Kings goal in an otherwise well-played second period, then the tying strike on a horrible break in the third period.
Cam Fowler’s clearing attempt hit the stanchion between the panes of glass (the only time we ever use the word “stanchion”) and caromed in the opposite direction it was intended to go, right to the stick of Kings winger Justin Williams. One give-and-go later and Williams tied the game with 11 minutes to go. (“Ninety-nine times out of 100 …” Fowler said. “I couldn’t believe it when it happened. But at the same time I didn’t do a good job of recovering when it happened. You couldn’t leave it in the back of your mind. And the hockey gods rewarded us back with Bobby’s goal.”
Ah, those hockey gods.
Ten more minutes of grind-it-out hockey later, the game seem destined to head to overtime, until a faceoff in the Kings’ end of the ice turned into a Ducks goal in a flash. It was the Flash who won that draw over Anze Kopitar, getting the puck to trickle into the bottom of the circle, where Ryan pounced on it, and this is where the Ducks got a fortunate bounce of their own. Ryan sent the puck toward the net, where it kicked off the leg of defenseman Drew Doughty and fluttered elegantly over the shoulder of Jonathan Quick. All of a sudden it was bedlam in Honda Center as Ryan jumped into the glass before being hugged by Teemu Selanne.
Biggest goal of the Ducks’ season? Almost certainly.
But Anaheim’s work wasn’t even close to being done, as the Kings pulled Quick and there were some scary final moments in front of the Kings net. None was scarier than when the puck got away from Hiller in the crease, as he lunged for it and denied punch-in attempts by Jack Johnson and Doughty in the final seconds. Selanne kicked the quivering puck into the corner and the sound of that horn was like music to our ears.
“It’s not the Cup, but it felt pretty good,” Boudreau said. “There is no doubt. I felt really good for the players because they were smiling. They worked so hard. Had it gone the other way after another lead like that, I was a little worried about it. We got a lucky break, but they got a lucky break. So, it sort of evened out.”
Ryan’s game-winner was his second goal of the night, the first coming in the first period to give the Ducks the lead and also heavily involving Selanne. Quick misplayed the puck behind the net and gave it away to Selanne. He quickly hit Ryan, who slung the puck into the abandoned net as he fell to the ice.
Ryan came into the game with just seven goals, but said an expert on such things predicted his luck would change last night. “It’s no secret it’s been a tough start to the season for me,” Ryan said. “Teemu told me this morning that things were going to start. He’s been through it a little bit in the past, not to this extent. It’s nice to rely on a guy who has scored that many goals, when he tells you that you’ll come out of it. For him to predict it tonight was huge.”
When things are going bad, and they have been for the Ducks, sometimes one win can change everything. The Ducks can only hope that’s the case with this one last night, especially with seven of their next eight games coming away from those thunderous roars at Honda Center. It was in front of those fans where Kent French asked Ryan if that win could be the spark the Ducks needed, "We certainly hope so," he said.
Later in the locker room, he added, “It’s a whole different feeling coming into this room tonight. It’s huge.”
Said Boudreau, "If we keep playing like this we might be able to get lucky enough to win in a tough building and then, who knows? The snowball might get bigger.”