The Anaheim Ducks won’t face Phoenix again until the final day of the regular season, which is just as well.
Three games in five days against the Coyotes were quite enough for a while – particularly because of how difficult Phoenix made it for the Pacific Division leaders.
Jonas Hiller faced only 18 shots in his first shutout of the season, Corey Perry scored in the first period and the Ducks beat the Coyotes 2-0 on Wednesday night for their ninth straight victory at home.
”They were good, hard-fought games all three nights,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, whose empty-net goal sealed the win with 21 seconds to play. ”At the start, you never know and things could get out of hand. It’s a different experience, that’s for sure, but tonight we came out and played the game we wanted to. It was a lot better defensive effort in shutting them down. Our goaltender played great and there weren’t any second chances.”
This was the first time the Ducks played three consecutive games against one opponent in the regular season. The only other time the Coyotes did it was during a six-day stretch in November 2007 against San Jose, when they lost all three by a combined score of 15-1.
”It was definitely special,” Hiller said. ”We definitely weren’t happy about the way we played the last two games, but we were solid enough tonight and did a good job of keeping things simple in our own zone. We didn’t give them too many chances, and that’s definitely the way we want to play.”
Phoenix won the previous two meetings at home, both by 5-4 scores in shootouts. The division rivals combined for 185 shots on net during this rare three-game ”series,” part of a condensed 48-game schedule caused by the lockout.
”We only gave up three shots in the first period tonight, so it wasn’t easy for me to get into the game,” Hiller said. ”But I would never complain about not having shots taken by the other team. In the third, we played really solid – especially after the last few games where we were giving up leads in the third.”
Hiller’s shutout was the 16th of his career. He made nine saves in the third period against a team that came in with the NHL’s second-highest goal total in that period (30).
”We didn’t compete hard enough,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. ”They were a more determined team defensively, and we didn’t have enough guys work hard enough to get inside and create chances instead of just around the fringes. We didn’t work to get shots through – and when we did get shots, there were too many that were blocked and too many missed nets.”
Anaheim’s 16-3-3 start is tied for the best in franchise history after 22 games. The team began its 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship season 15-2-5.
The Ducks have the second-best record in the NHL, but still trail the astounding Chicago Blackhawks (21-0-3) by 10 points.
”It’s a pretty amazing feat, and they deserve a lot of credit,” Getzlaf said. ”They’re playing great and doing things the right way, but at the same time, we just worry about ourselves and keep pushing forward.”
Jason LaBarbera made 22 saves for Phoenix, one of them on a penalty shot by Andrew Cogliano at 5:17 of the second period. It was the 33-year-old journeyman’s third start this season.
The Ducks outshot Phoenix 6-0 over the first 9 1/2 minutes, taking the lead at the 7:10 mark when Bobby Ryan set up Perry in the low slot for his seventh goal. The play began when Getzlaf intercepted a poor clearing pass by defenseman Derek Morris in the neutral zone and carried the puck into the Phoenix zone before giving it to Ryan in the right circle.
”We got the band back together,” Getzlaf said with a grin. ”It felt good out there. I thought Bobby played really well and did a lot of things that made him the player he is. So it was easy for us to play together.”
Ryan, a longtime fixture on the Ducks’ top line with Getzlaf and Perry, was back in familiar territory because of Kyle Palmieri’s upper-body injury. Palmieri, whose hat trick helped the Ducks beat Nashville on Feb. 27, missed his second straight game after taking a hard check from Raffi Torres on Saturday.
”Obviously, I played with them for a long time. We had a lot of success for years and it was great,” Ryan said. ”Filling on that line now, it’s nice that I was comfortable being able to do it, knowing them so well. But as long as whoever’s playing with them goes in and gets the puck and gets it back to them, those opportunities are going to be there. So I tried to do a lot of that tonight.”
Phoenix captain Shane Doan was serving a tripping penalty when the Coyotes left Perry unchecked about 10 feet from the right of the net. But the 2011 MVP, who had a career-high 50 goals two seasons ago, hit the crossbar at 5:33 of the second period.
”We knew it was going to be a close game,” Doan said. ”Both teams wanted to be better defensively and there weren’t as many chances. The first period is what cost us. We have to be better to start the game, and that starts with me.”
NOTES:Phoenix will play Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles three times in an eight-day stretch later this month. Anaheim will face Dallas in each of their first three games in April. … The Ducks, who came in with a league-best 29.7 conversion percentage on the power play, were 0 for 1. It was the 12th time in their last 14 games that they had fewer than four power-play opportunities, but they have scored 12 goals with the man advantage during that stretch. … The longest home winning streak in Ducks history was 11 games during the 2009-10 season. They can tie that mark by beating Calgary on Friday and St. Louis on Sunday.