Teemu Selanne was around six years ago when the Anaheim Ducks rode the best start in franchise history to their only Stanley Cup title, and the Finnish Flash sees many of the same qualities in the club currently rocketing up the NHL standings.
The Ducks even surpassed that championship team’s start to the season with a gritty win over Minnesota.
Selanne scored his 669th NHL goal, Jonas Hiller made 31 saves, and Anaheim survived Minnesota’s late surge for a 3-2 victory on Friday night, the Ducks’ eighth straight at home.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey also scored for the streaking Ducks, who have won eight of nine and 12 of 14 despite barely holding on to their 3-0 lead over Minnesota after two periods.
Anaheim (15-3-1) has the NHL’s second-best record behind Chicago, and hasn’t lost at Honda Center since its home opener on Jan. 25. The Ducks even did better than their 2006-07 championship team, which started 13-2-4, and Selanne said these Ducks compare favorably to the champs.
”There’s a lot of similarities, and that’s a good sign,” Selanne said. ”Tonight, we didn’t play that well, and still we found a way to win the game. That’s what makes good teams better. We’re pretty much running with all cylinders. Everybody is playing well. That’s what it takes.”
Despite a third period tilted decidedly toward Minnesota, the Ducks got off to another strong start to March after tying the franchise record with 11 victories in February. Hiller did much of the work late, holding on while the Wild constantly pressed the action in the third.
”Even though we were scrambling there for a while and didn’t play our best hockey, we still believed that we were going to win this game,” Hiller said. ”I think that’s what we needed, and I think that was probably missing the years before.”
Kyle Brodziak and Devin Setoguchi scored third-period goals for Minnesota, which lost for the second time in six games. Darcy Kuemper stopped 26 shots in his third NHL start for the Wild, who played an outstanding third period on the back end of back-to-back games following a road win in Phoenix.
”I didn’t think our first period was good enough, for sure,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. ”We have to start better against good teams. We were sort of in-between on a lot of plays, and not as aggressive and assertive as we need to be. But once we got our heads and got it going, we were pretty good.”
Less than five minutes in, Kyle Palmieri got the puck to Perry, whose drive to the net was easily tapped in by Getzlaf for his seventh goal. Getzlaf, who managed just 11 goals in 82 games last season, already has 22 points in 19 games.
Selanne and Bobby Ryan then teamed up for a beautiful goal, with Selanne skating into the slot and splitting two defenders with a precise backhand while Ryan drew the defense’s attention. The 42-year-old star broke a tie with Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille for 11th place in NHL goal-scoring history.
”He disguised his release well on the backhander,” said Kuemper, who was 2 years old in Saskatchewan when Selanne broke into the NHL in Manitoba in 1992. ”I mean, he’s scored a lot of goals in this league, and he got it off quicker than I was expecting and I just couldn’t get across in time. … I’ve felt pretty good in the three games I’ve played so far, and this was the one I felt the most comfortable in.”
Hiller made a handful of stellar saves in the second period before Beleskey widened the Ducks’ lead with his fourth goal on a heads-up play, poking the puck through Kuemper’s legs after the goalie barely stopped Daniel Winnik’s deflected shot on the goal line.
Brodziak ended Hiller’s shutout bid when an Anaheim clearing attempt ricocheted off the glass straight to him. His slap shot caught the post behind Hiller, who was screened, for his second goal of the season.
Setoguchi then trimmed the Ducks’ lead to one goal with a slap shot through traffic, putting it between Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa’s legs and finding a sliver of net with 9:23 to play. Minnesota got a power play with 3:17 left and pulled Kuemper for a 6-on-4 advantage in the final 30 seconds, but couldn’t get anything past Hiller.
”You never want to be satisfied, and you never want to take anything for granted,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”We just want to keep going and see how far it can lead.”
NOTES: Perry extended his scoring streak to seven games, while Getzlaf has scored in five straight. … The Wild scratched young C Mikael Granlund in favor of enforcer Zenon Konopka, who fought Anaheim’s Patrick Maroon in a lengthy bout in the second period. … Anaheim scratched Sheldon Souray for the first time this season, giving a maintenance day to the veteran defenseman before a heavy schedule of games. … Minnesota LW Jason Zucker played his 12th NHL game. The NHL’s only Las Vegas product was born in nearby Newport Beach, Calif., where many current Ducks live.