ANAHEIM — The Ducks took the ice Wednesday without Ryan Getzlaf for the first time this season, their captain and second-leading scorer sidelined by a lower-body injury that prompted significant concern and lineup shuffling before facing the Vegas Golden Knights at Honda Center.
In the end, the Ducks seemed to be unfazed by Getzlaf’s absence, energized by three-point games from Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano and 34 saves from backup goaltender Anthony Stolarz en route to a wild 6-5 victory over the Golden Knights, their second win in 24 hours and their 11th in their last 15 games.
That’s not to say the Ducks didn’t have their moments of uncertainty because they did, just as they did during their 5-4 shootout victory over the Kings on Tuesday, when Getzlaf exited midway through the first period. In that one, the Ducks lost all of a 4-1 third-period lead but won in a shootout.
This time, the Ducks (13-8-3) weathered a late onslaught from Vegas (12-10-0) that included a shorthanded goal by Mattias Janmark and power-play strikes from Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith as the Golden Knights narrowed their deficit to 5-4 and finally 6-5 in the final, frantic seconds.
The Ducks countered with third-period goals from Jamie Drysdale and Isac Lundestrom. Lundestrom’s goal, fired into an empty net while the Ducks were short-handed, proved to be the decisive score, enabling them to improve their all-time record to 4-13-5 against the Golden Knights.
“We can play with these guys, we can skate with these guys,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “We don’t need to go and try to contain, pull back and play safe. It’s the safe-is-death mentality. We want to go and enjoy the game. You want to compete hard, but you want to have fun. I thought our guys did an unbelievable job.”
No question, the Ducks seemed to be enjoying themselves during a four-goal outburst in the second period. Troy Terry, Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm scored in the middle period as the Ducks took their second 4-1 lead in as many nights.
“We’re playing a different style,” Manson said. “We’re turning pucks back so much quicker now. We’re not giving them (the Golden Knights) a chance to set up. We kind of understand their game a little better, too, how they want to go through the neutral zone. All those kinds of things.
“I think we’re doing a lot of things better. When we win our battles is when we start to create offense. They come at you wholesale, with four or five guys on the rush. If you play them smart and you win your battles, you’re going to get your chances going back the other way.”
After a scoreless first period, the Ducks’ third in a row, Terry sent a laser into the back of Robin Lehner’s net for a 1-0 lead 4:21 into the second. It took 129 games for Terry to score his first 15 goals in the NHL. It took him only 23 games this season to score his next 15 goals.
Only two players in Ducks history have scored 15 goals or more in their first 23 games of a season. Paul Kariya did it twice, including in 1995-96 when he scored 50 by season’s end, and Teemu Selanne did it in 1997-98 when he ended the season with a franchise-record 52.
Zach Whitecloud’s short-handed goal with 12 seconds left in the second period cut the Ducks’ lead to 4-2 and took some of the fizz out of their four-goal period. The Ducks outshot the Golden Knights by 15-10 in the period and generally controlled play in the second after Terry’s goal.
Eakins had shuffled his lines with Getzlaf out of commission, moving Sam Steel from third-line left wing to top-line center. Eakins considered moving Zegras between Terry and Adam Henrique, but he gave Steel a promotion instead. Derek Grant moved into Steel’s spot on the third line.
Zegras remained with usual linemates Milano and Rakell. Grant skated with Lundestrom and Jakob Silfverberg. Nicolas Deslauriers, Sam Carrick and Vinni Lettieri made up the fourth line. The Ducks bolstered their ranks by summoning Buddy Robinson from the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.
The final period turned out to be a test of wills and skills, and the Ducks managed well enough in Getzlaf’s absence.
“That’s a dangerous team,” Eakins said of Vegas. “Every shift is a dangerous shift against those guys. I thought right from the start, right through the finish, we were moving our feet. I thought we made some great plays at the other end. We made some mistakes, but we didn’t get squirrely on the bench.
“We just kept playing.”