Skating from the bench, the 32-year-old center saw the puck just sitting on the ice, and his eyes lit up.
Kearns scored his first NHL goal, Logan Couture netted his 100th, and the San Jose Sharks broke Anaheim’s 10-game winning streak by beating the Ducks 3-1 on Sunday night.
Brent Burns added a goal for the Sharks, who won their fourth straight. Antti Niemi stopped 30 shots in his 21st win of the season.
”That’s a great story, isn’t it?” Sharks coach Todd McLellan asked. ”There’s also a lesson in it about believing in yourself and persevering.”
Kearns, a veteran of nearly 600 minor league games, played in just his seventh NHL contest.
”It was just a loose puck,” Kearns said. ”This organization gave me an opportunity, and I just had to keep working at it and setting my goals high.”
Patrick Maroon scored for the Ducks, who lost for the first time in December and missed a chance for a club-record, seven-game winning streak on the road. Frederik Anderson made 20 saves but lost for the second time in 11 games this season.
”That’s on us,” Anderson said. ”We know they come out strong, and you have to be ready from the start.”
Anaheim, which entered the game as the NHL’s top team, also had a 13-game point streak stopped.
”This was a big game for us,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. ”Now we’ve lost one in a row. You can’t be satisfied with that.”
The teams will meet again at Anaheim on Tuesday night.
”These are a huge two games and a huge four points,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. ”They’ve been kind of running away from the division, and we sort of grabbed them and pulled them back a little. The next one is going to be another huge game.”
Burns opened the scoring 1:17 into the game. Joe Pavelski followed his blocked shot with a wraparound try that bounced straight to Burns, who found a crack between Anderson and a Ducks defender for the goal.
Burns has eight points in his past seven games against the Ducks. The Sharks scored in the first 90 seconds of a game for the ninth time this season.
Jason Demers recovered a loose puck to help set up Couture’s goal midway through the first period. Couture beat one defender and then beat Anderson.
”It’s special because it’s a big number,” Couture said. ”I was stuck on 99 for a while.”
Midway through the second period, Kearns picked up the rebound from Andrew Desjardins’ shot and easily beat Anderson.
”We should have known and played better in the first period,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”We didn’t meet their push early.”
Maroon scored his fifth goal in four games midway through the third period, with an assist from Corey Perry.
NOTES: The Sharks have taken a 2-0 lead in the first period 14 times this season. . . . Sharks C Tommy Wingels left after slamming his head into the boards during the first period. . . . The Ducks haven’t scored on their past 21 power plays. . . . Thornton recorded an assist to move into a 25th-place tie with Alex Delvecchio (825) on the NHL career list. . . . Maroon scored for the first time since Oct. 25. . . . The Sharks had 30 blocked shots, tying the franchise record for the most in a game. . . . The Ducks are the only team without a regulation loss at home.