Kesler scores tiebreaking goal in Ducks' 3-2 win over Devils
Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonathan Bernier, right, and Sami Vatanen, of Finland, celebrate the team's 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Kesler says he turned his October goal-scoring drought into a November bonanza with the same determination and a little more luck.
There was nothing lucky about his hard work on another game-winning goal for the Anaheim Ducks.
Kesler scored the tiebreaking goal on a rush to the net with 3:40 to play, and Anaheim snapped the New Jersey Devils' five-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory Thursday night.
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''You get chances in a game, and it's nice when you can bury them,'' Kesler said with a shrug. ''I'm going to keep riding this wave for as long as I can.''
After struggling for long stretches of the first 50 minutes against the tough, disciplined Devils, the Ducks took the lead with determination. Jakob Silfverberg controlled the puck behind the net and centered it to Kesler, who outmuscled Travis Zajac in the slot and forced home a backhand for his team-leading eighth goal – including six in the last six games.
''He's strong,'' Silfverberg said of Kesler. ''The goal he scored tonight, I don't know how many battles he won in front of the net before he put the puck in.''
Rickard Rakell and Silfverberg scored 16 seconds apart in the second period to tie it for the Ducks, who took sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division standings with their fifth victory in six games. Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves for the Ducks, who have won the first two on a five-game homestand.
''It's tough to play against that team,'' said Silfverberg, who has seven points in the last four games on his line with Kesler and Andrew Cogliano. ''They play super-aggressive hockey and you don't get a lot of scoring chances. They controlled the first period, but we got going.''
The Ducks have won four straight at home overall, and they've beaten New Jersey three straight times at Honda Center for the first time since 1995-97.
Kyle Quincey had a goal and an assist for the Devils, who had been on their longest streak since February 2013. Devante Smith-Pelly also scored against his former team, and Cory Schneider stopped 20 shots in New Jersey's second stop on a four-game road trip.
''It was a chippy game,'' Schneider said. ''We did a lot of things we wanted to do, but a couple of breakdowns against that team, and they find a way to make you pay.''
While the Devils largely felt good about another road effort, they failed to earn a point for just the second time in 12 games, and their power-play drought stretched to 0 for 25 over the past two weeks.
''The way we played tonight we should've at least gotten one (point), but we didn't,'' Schneider said.
The Devils played their second game without leading scorer Taylor Hall, who will be out for at least three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Smith-Pelly put New Jersey ahead with a deflection of Quincey's point shot for his second goal of a quiet season. Quincey put another long shot cleanly past Bernier 3 1/2 minutes later for his second goal of the season and his first multipoint game since Oct. 13, 2015.
But moments after Rakell's fifth goal in nine games trickled over the line, Silfverberg beat Schneider with a nasty wrist shot for the tying goal, his sixth of the season.
Yohann Auvitu, the Devils' surprising French rookie defenseman, missed his first game of the season due to an upper-body injury. New Jersey had used the same six defensemen in every game this season before Jon Merrill stepped in for Auvitu.
NOTES: Three Devils were recently Ducks: D Ben Lovejoy, F Kyle Palmieri and Smith-Pelly. … Devils RW Beau Bennett is a Gardena, California, native who attended Valley Christian High School, 15 miles from Honda Center. … Ducks F Joseph Cramarossa went to the dressing room late in the first period after colliding harshly with Rakell. Cramarossa didn't return.
Devils: After a day off in LA, they face the Kings on Saturday afternoon.
Ducks: The homestand continues Sunday when the Los Angeles Kings visit for the second Freeway Faceoff of the season.