ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Ducks had something of a rally cry to start their season: Just wait until we get healthy.
Slowly, the injured have returned. And now with Ryan Kesler back after missing 37 games following hip surgery and Corey Perry expected back soon, Anaheim is approaching full strength for the first time this season.
It appears to be showing dividends after the Ducks dominated the third period Sunday to down the Arizona Coyotes 5-2 for their fourth victory in five games.
“We’re just trying to get some guys in shape and healthy,” said Anaheim forward Antoine Vermette, who had a goal and two assists. “It takes time. We believe we still have much better to offer.”
The Ducks got two goals from Rickard Rakell in the first period, then third-period scores from Cam Fowler and Jakob Silfverberg, before Vermette added a final empty-net goal.
The NHL-worst Coyotes rallied back twice on power plays against Rakell’s scores to tie it.
.@mattycoyotestv and @TysonNash breakdown today’s #Yotes game. pic.twitter.com/jGgGaNaZ1B
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) January 1, 2018
Brendan Perlini’s slap shot tied it at 1, and 19-year-old rookie Clayton Keller’s 14th goal tied it at 2 early in the third. Then came the flood of three Anaheim scores.
“I thought we played a good game until then,” Keller said. “I think we just kind of got away from it.”
Not an unfamiliar theme for the Coyotes, who have won only nine games and lost 10 of their last 12.
“We played a good game,” Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. “I’m happy with their effort. We had a couple of breakdowns and crucial mistakes at the wrong time, and it was in our net. That seems to be the story of our team.”
“The theme of our season right now. It’s a tie game and all of a sudden one bad mistake and it’s in our net.” @ArizonaCoyotes coach @RealRocket22. pic.twitter.com/tnEYWbHoag
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) December 31, 2017
Anaheim’s early story was its roster. It started the season missing six players expected to dress, and later lost Perry.
Now they will start a five-game trip coming off consecutive wins at home, and Perry close to returning.
“We’re kind of a work in progress,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We haven’t had an opportunity to have everybody together. We think this (trip) is an opportunity for our team to bond together.”
Vermette went his last eight games without a point, but Carlyle inserted him into the first line with forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Rakell and it worked to near perfection.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Vermette said. “They’re great players and make a lot of room. They’re patient and find ways to get the puck, slow things down and make plays. I thought we fed off each other pretty well.”
Rakell extended his career-high goal streak to five games.
“We’re scoring goals all right, but it feels like we can get even more,” Rakell said.
NOTES: Vermette collected his first three-point game since March 12, 2016. . Keller leads the Coyotes in scoring and has a career-high eight-game point streak going. … Kesler appeared in his 900th career game. He had two assists for his 47th career multi-assist game. … Anaheim’s Patrick Eaves, out for the season with Guillain-Barre syndrome, was in attendance for the first time this season. Said Carlyle: “He’s definitely part of our group and we haven’t forgotten about him. We’re going to let him and his family take their time.” … Perlini tried to find encouragement in Arizona’s latest defeat: “We fought back and got back in the game. It was a good effort by the guys anyway, and the score line doesn’t really justify how we played.”
Coyotes: Host Nashville on Thursday night.