Rickard Rakell glided over near the top of the left face-off circle, and Ryan Getzlaf seemingly knew he would be there, the type of chemistry the pair has been cultivating over this torrid stretch.
Getzlaf had just created the zone entry, shielding the puck with his body, and then fired it across the ice to Rakell, who sailed it over Braden Holtby’s left shoulder for the Ducks’ third goal.
That was the last shot the former Vezina Trophy winner would see.
He was subsequently pulled from the net, replaced by Philipp Grubauer, as the Washington backup attempted to stop the bleeding.
The Ducks are clicking, their struggles — their rash of injuries — simply a distant memory.
Paired against one of the NHL’s most formidable offenses, the club delivered a shutout and put the rest of the NHL’s playoff contenders on notice with a 4-0 victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night at Honda Center.
Alexander Ovechkin and his league-leading 40 goals were a nonfactor (he was limited to just two shots on goal) as John Gibson turned in another sensational performance, with 36 saves for his second shutout of the season.
“We’re fighting for our lives, so there’s no sitting back and there’s no having a night off or anything like that,” said Gibson, who’s 8-1-1 since the All-Star break.
He’s allowed two goals or fewer in each game but one during this stretch, and he believes the Ducks are playing their best hockey when it matters most.
“We know if we don’t win now, then our season’s over,” said Gibson. “So there’s definitely more pressure and we’re holding ourselves to a higher standard.”
The Ducks have earned points in eight of their last nine contests as they strengthened their hold on a playoff spot, and with the victory, they leapfrogged the idle San Jose Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division.
For a second consecutive game, the Ducks jumped out to a fast start and chased the opposing goalie to the bench (Chicago Blackhawks’ Anton Forsberg was the victim Sunday.)
It was Adam Henrique who jump-started the offense, scoring from the slot past Holtby just 1:24 in. Rakell and Getzlaf earned the assists on the power-play marker.
Rakell and Getzlaf have been unstoppable of late, and really all season when healthy.
“He was telling me after the game that I was yelling too much at him for the puck,” Rakell said with a smirk. “He’s a great passer and I just try to be open.”
The way the Ducks’ lone all-star is shooting the puck, he needs it as much as Getzlaf can get it to him.
Rakell owns six goals and two assists in his last four games (a team-leading 56 on the season), while Getzlaf has produced one goal along with eight assists over three games (47 points in 42 contests).
About 12 minutes after Henrique notched his 20th of the season, it was Hampus Lindholm’s turn to reach a season milestone.
With his wristshot from the point through traffic, he reached the 10-goal mark, matching his career high in goals for a single campaign.
The way the Ducks are playing, with contributions all over the roster, few teams should feel good about playing them down the stretch, never mind the playoffs.
Now, they need to find a way to sustain their impressive play as they head on the road for a two-game trip.