ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Cam Fowler usually likes to blast shots when near the net, but the Anaheim defenseman used a little bit of finesse on Thursday to give the Ducks a 2-1 victory in their opener against the Arizona Coyotes.
Fowler’s wrist shot late in the second period proved to be the tiebreaking goal and gave Dallas Eakins a successful debut as Anaheim’s coach.
“A lot of times I might put my head down and blast that, but I saw the forward cheating in my lane and there was some open ice in the middle,” Fowler said. “I got a little bit of separation, wanted to get it on net and create some havoc. I was happy to see that go in.”
Fowler skated around a pair of Arizona defenders and lofted a shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Darcy Kuemper on his glove side with 32 seconds remaining in the second. It was his ninth game-winning goal, surpassing Scott Niedermayer for the franchise lead by a defenseman.
John Gibson made 32 saves for the Ducks, who have won three straight season openers. Derek Grant also scored.
“It’s always nice to start with a win. We came out slow but as the game went on we played stronger,” Gibson said.
Eakins was hired during the offseason after coaching the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in San Diego for four seasons. This is Eakins’ second stint in the NHL after two-plus seasons with Edmonton (2013-15).
Eakins was pleased with how his team progressed during training camp but also realized that a win in the opener would be further validation, especially after the Ducks missed the playoffs last time for the first time in seven seasons.
“I think the win is massive. We want to build off the positivity we had during training camp,” he said. “If you come out on the bad side it could creep into thoughts of is it happening again?”
Derek Stepan had Arizona’s goal while Kuemper stopped 27 shots.
“It was one of those games that was kind of tight both ways,” Kuemper said. “Fowler made a move, kind of a broken play and made a good shot. Just kind of chipped it over me.”
Grant opened the scoring at 14:32 of the first when he knocked in the rebound after Devin Shore was stopped on a breakaway. Kuemper stopped Shore’s shot with his left skate but wasn’t in position to stop the Anaheim forward’s tip-in.
Arizona evened it at 1 when Stepan went top shelf to beat Gibson at 9:03 of the second period. Phil Kessel got his first point for the Coyotes when he fed Stepan to his left and he buried a one-timer on a wrist shot for his fifth opening night goal.
Kessel, who was acquired from Pittsburgh during the offseason, played in his 775th consecutive game, the second-longest active streak in the league.
“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” Kessel said. “We were skating, just one of those nights where we couldn’t get more than one.”
NOTES: The Ducks are 7-1-3 in their last 11 home games against Arizona. ... Kessel has 13 assists and 21 points in 17 games vs. Anaheim. ... The Coyotes have 10 US-born players on the roster which is tied with New Jersey and Winnipeg for the second-most in the NHL. Minnesota leads with 11.