ANAHEIM — Comebacks have been one of the Ducks’ calling cards in their four victories throughout the opening weeks of the season.
Seattle, Toronto, San Jose.
San Jose … again.
While highly entertaining, it isn’t a viable long-term recipe for success. The Ducks erased a two-goal deficit against the Florida Panthers with a strong second period on goals 27 seconds apart by Ryan Strome and Adam Henrique and took a tie game into the third period.
The Panthers then built another two-goal lead in the third and held on, beating the Ducks, 5-3, at Honda Center on Sunday. Anaheim center Isac Lundestrom converted a penalty shot with 1:14 remaining to pull the Ducks within one, cutting the lead to 4-3. But Panthers forward Sam Reinhart scored an empty netter with one second left, which was his second goal of the game, for the final margin.
Also scoring for the Panthers were Carter Verhaeghe (on the power play), former Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett.
Montour was drafted by the Ducks in 2014 in the second round, started his NHL career in Anaheim, playing parts of three seasons with the Ducks. He had a three-point night against the Ducks, scoring once and adding two assists.
The Panthers were without their leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk, who was serving the first game of his two-game suspension for high-sticking Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. The incident occurred near the end of the Kings’ 5-4 win against Florida on Saturday night.
Tkachuk will be eligible to return for the Panthers’ game against Edmonton on Nov. 12.
The Ducks were coming off a three-game trip, in which they recorded two comeback wins against the Sharks, winning both games in shootouts.
“I think we’ve done that a couple of times where the game’s not going well, and I think the easiest thing to do is pack up your tent and call it a night,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said before Sunday’s game. “So I am impressed with our team’s ability – even when things aren’t going well – to stay in it.
“Especially in today’s game – I’m not sure you’re ever out of it. No matter what kind of lead you have. But on the other hand, it’s certainly not sustainable to be down in games and just think you’re going to grab a couple in the last five minutes.”
The Ducks again were without center Derek Grant (upper-body injury), who missed his second consecutive game. Center Glenn Gawdin, who was recalled from AHL San Diego last week, made his Ducks debut, and defenseman Colton White was the healthy scratch.
Of note, Eakins moved rookie forward Mason McTavish back to the wing after a three-game stint at center, noting it was done out of “necessity.” Previously, he said he would likely be moving McTavish between the positions.
“I thought he’s been good,” Eakins said. “He certainly understands the position. And I do think he – in my eyes – looks more comfortable there than on the wing. But for what we need for our team tonight, he’s going to start on the wing.
“We’re not going to run the team off of Mason McTavish has to play center. We’re going to do what’s right for our team. We will need him to start at wing tonight. That could change.”