ANAHEIM – A roaring, singing, orange-and-black crowd cheered the Duck on their return to the Honda Center on the opening night of the 2021-22 season. A sense of familiarity has permeated the 28-year-old arena on the corner of Catella and Douglas after a dull season when fans were mostly locked out.
The roar of the crowd, absent from the COVID-19 pandemic, swept the Ducks during their 4-1 win over Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, a welcome sign that something like normal life could happen sooner rather than later. There was no full house, but the fans were loud.
Fans cheered for the Ducks presented ahead of the game, with the loudest applause going to longtime captain Ryan Getzlaf, goalkeeper John Gibson, third draft Mason McTavish, and recent first-round picks Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras. Coach Dallas Eakins was thrilled too.
“I think there is no game without fans,” Eakins said ahead of time when asked about the possibility of a full arena on Wednesday. “So today is a good day.”
Then, in the first few minutes, the Ducks didn’t show up for their party. The Jets surrounded them on the first throw-in, controlling the puck and pushing Gibson down. It was as if the Ducks had eaten in one of the food trucks parked outside the arena.
Finally, after the Jets beat them 7-0, the Ducks cheered up their fans. Defender Kevin Shattenkirk shot from the right flank through traffic jams into Connor Hellebike’s goal and brought the Ducks out on goal 1-0 at 6:11 in the opening period.
McTavish then infuriated the public, himself and his teammates, becoming the youngest player in Ducks history to score a goal at the age of 18 years and 256 days. To fix the referee’s quick whistle, a video review was needed. There was no doubt that the puck was lost.
McTavish was one of four newcomers to The Duck and their second youngest player to appear in the game after Oleg Tverdovsky, who was eight days younger when he made his NHL debut in 1994. McTavish was only on the lineup because Max Jones had a non-COVID medical condition.
In the second period, after Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor scored the Duck’s lead to 2-1 with a 3:48 score, McTavish assisted Adam Enrique with a power-play to regain their two-goal lead at 13:20 … McTavish then felt the Jets’ anger as Dylan DeMelo knocked him across the boards with his knee.
The Ducks’ strength play was among the less prominent aspects of their game during the pandemic-shortened 56-game season, when they finished with an alarming 8.9% success rate, the worst in NHL history. So Enrique’s goal with a human advantage had added value.
Ricard Ruckell made the deal by scoring a 6:20 power play in the third period, making it 4-1 and prompting fans to convince the Ducks to score a fifth goal by chanting “We want a chicken,” which was the hand. past seasons. Drysdale and Getzlaf assisted Rakella on goal.
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