ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Some comebacks are routine, others a tad more daunting. The latter applies to Ryan Kesler.
Kesler, sidelined almost half of last season and the first couple of games this year after hip surgery, hinted at returning to form Wednesday night, scoring twice in the Anaheim Ducks’ 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
Kesler scored the Ducks’ first two goals, providing an early cushion the Islanders could never overcome. New York did not score until there were 34.8 seconds left.
“He kick started our offense,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Ducks improved to 5-1-1 on the season, while the Islanders fell to 2-3.
John Gibson turned away 34 of 35 shots for Anaheim, while Thomas Greiss stopped 21 of 24 shots for New York.
Kesler opened the scoring at the end of the first period, cashing in on a power play when he backhanded in a rebound with 4.4 seconds left.
New York thought it had tied the game at 1-1 in the second period when Cal Clutterbuck poked the puck into the net after it appeared under the glove and in control of Gibson. The Ducks challenged the goal, it was ruled goalie interference and erased.
Minutes later, Kesler added his second goal of the game, a wrist shot from just outside the blue line for his third goal of the season. The puck bounced out of the net and Kesler fired that in, too.
“I had to make sure,” Kesler said.
That game had taken a huge turn.
“That’s a big momentum swing,” said New York’s Mathew Barzal.” Two to nothing, now. That happens. Just can’t control it, got to get back on the horse quickly and I thought, again we had some chances
“Sometimes you run into a hot goalie and tonight (Gibson) played great.”
The Ducks took their commanding 3-0 lead less than a minute into the third period. Max Comtois fired a short shot just inside the backline that deflected off Greiss and popped up a few feet in front of the goal just as Adam Henrique skated by. He batted it in for his third goal of the season.
“We still kept doing the same thing and got a lot of good chances, but we got to put the puck in the net,” New York’s Johnny Boychuk said. “That’s all.”
Kesler said he’s still not where he wants to be, but is pleased with his start.
“I have a lot to improve on,” he said. “It’s a long year, but a good start.”
He admitted, though, some satisfaction in proving those wrong who doubted he would have really make it back from his hip surgery.
“I love it,” Kesler said. “It’s my favorite thing in the world.”
NOTES: The Ducks signed left wing Nick Ritchie, 22, to a three-year contract prior to the game. He was their first-round draft pick in 2014. . With the win, Carlyle (460) moved one shy of tying Roger Neilson for 30th among NHL coaches in all-time wins. . The Islanders lost their third consecutive game to the Ducks. . Casey Cizikas was credited with New York’s goal, the shot from Ross Johnson deflected off him and ultimately Anaheim’s Luke Schenn. . It was Kesler’s first multi-goal game since he had a hat trick against Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 2017. . The Ducks have 11 points, marking the fifth time they’ve earned 11-or-more points through their first seven games.
Islanders: Head up the freeway Thursday to play the Kings in Los Angeles.
Ducks: Travel to Las Vegas on Saturday to meet the Golden Knights.
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