Kyle Palmieri’s first NHL goal, in his first NHL game, came with 4:20 left in the third period of a game the Ducks were trailing 2-1. Ryan Getzlaf showed up on the scoresheet with 2:07 left in overtime.
Clutch scoring and tight defense against the NHL’s highest-scoring team almost seemed to much to ask from the Ducks, but it was exactly what the announced crowd of 13,034 was treated to Wednesday.
It was a storybook finish for Palmieri, who was standing all alone in the slot to receive a tape-to-tape backhand pass from Bobby Ryan for the game-tying goal. The 19-year-old arrived in Orange County from Syracuse, NY, at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, and about 21 hours later scored a goal that meant almost as much to his slumping team than it did to him.
“I really don’t have any words right now,” Palmieri said after the game.
Palmieri’s story is one of redemption. If Wednesday was a long day, 2010 has been a long year. He talked openly about his run-in with the law during the Ducks’ summer rookie camp and he’ll probably get more questions about it this week.
Wednesday was not the time for it, with Palmieri and the team in full celebratory mode after what was arguably the team’s best 60-minute effort this season. It broke a two-game losing streak in which the Ducks fell to the lowly New Jersey Devils at home Friday, then were embarrassed a day later in San Jose.
Teemu Selanne was just as instrumental in the win, scoring the only goal in a strong first period for Anaheim, and assisting on Getzlaf’s game-winner in overtime. The
40-year-old did most of the work by speeding up the left wing, circling
behind the net, drawing in the defense before delivering a diagonal pass
through the that left Lightning goaltender Dan Ellis leaning the wrong
Tampa Bay scored twice on goals that Jonas Hiller (32 saves) had no chance of stopping – a close-range one-timer by Brett Jones and a power-play tally by Steven Stamkos.
The Lightning, averaging 3.36 goals per game, were held to two goals or fewer for only the third time all season.
“Even if we won this game, I’m not happy because we wasted the first period,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “We played the second and third like our team usually plays.We got 15 shots in the second and 17 shots in the third, but the first period, we had two shots and we came out flat. Our power play was soft and we didn’t have the drive that we normally have. … You get what you deserve if you don’t start the game on time.”
This could be the beginning of a good problem for the Ducks, who on Friday will play the Penguins following a rare 5-2 shellacking in Dallas tonight. If Palmieri and fellow rookie call-up Nick Bonino can prove that tonight was no fluke, they could force injured forwards Dan Sexton, Matt Beleskey and/or Kyle Chipchura out of ice time.
Likewise the Ducks (5-7-1) – who have also beaten Philadelphia and Vancouver this season, but lost to New Jersey and Columbus – need to show that Wednesday’s win was no fluke.