Ducks host Lightning in wake of emotional win

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On a night the Anaheim Ducks remembered the late Kobe Bryant, perhaps it was only fitting that Carter Rowney provided the highlight.

The center, who wears No. 24, matching Bryant’s jersey that adorns the rafters up the road at Staples Center in Los Angeles, scored a short-handed goal on Anaheim’s 24th shot in its 24th home game of the season as the Ducks defeated the visiting Arizona Coyotes 4-2 Wednesday night.

It was Anaheim’s first game since the retired Los Angeles Lakers superstar died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. His oldest daughter and seven others were killed in the crash. Bryant and his family lived in Newport Beach in Orange County, Calif.

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins marveled at Wednesday’s turn of events.

“For that to happen, I’m not sure what to believe sometimes when it comes to religion and things like that, but I do wonder if that happened by accident or was that part of the night? I get goosebumps standing here and talking about it,” Eakins said.

Adam Henrique scored twice for the Ducks and Derek Grant added two assists.

Grant, who stole the puck to set up Rowney’s goal, was also struck by the occurrences involving No. 24.

“It’s definitely weird. It was a cool thing to see it go up there, and whoever figured that out deserves a raise,” Grant said.

The Ducks have won three of their past four games entering Friday night’s contest against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Our execution was back, that’s for sure,” Eakins said. “For us to play well and be able to play with teams like that, it has to start there. It was something we keyed on in practice. With execution comes pace. We had some pace.

“Lastly, the thing I liked was that we had some snarl in our game. We never want to lose that in our organization. We’re going to continue getting quicker and more skilled, but we certainly want to keep that kind of intensity in our game.”

The Lightning are coming off a 4-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, the first sporting event at Staples Center since Bryant’s death.

Steven Stamkos scored twice for the second consecutive game and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves as the Lightning rallied from an early two-goal deficit.

Tampa Bay improved to 6-0-0 against Pacific Division foes this season and has gone 13-2-1 in its past 16 games.

Players from both the Kings and Lightning wore shirts honoring Bryant and daughter Gianna under their equipment, and a moment of silence was held prior to the game.

“I’m from Sweden, obviously, and basketball is maybe not the biggest sport, but Kobe Bryant is still someone that everybody knows,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said.

“Doesn’t matter if you’re a hockey player or a soccer player back home. All my friends, family, everyone knows who Kobe is. … Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this horrible accident, and it was an honor for us as an organization to be a part of that pregame ceremony,” Hedman said.

In the previous meeting between the Lightning and Ducks on Nov. 23, Tampa Bay won 6-2 as Brayden Point scored twice.

–Field Level Media

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