ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks insisted the game had nothing to do with making a statement, but there was really no other way to look at it. So much attention has been paid to the Chicago Blackhawks this season that maybe this was Anaheim’s way of making sure someone took notice.
It will happen now. The Ducks still have the second-best record in the NHL, but they left no doubt Wednesday night that there are two exceptional teams at the top of the standings.
Their 4-2 win over the Blackhawks in front of a franchise-record crowd of 17,610 at the Honda Center was every bit a statement. They extended their home winning streak to 13 games, improved their overall record to 22-3-4 and beat Chicago for the second time this season — the only times the Blackhawks have lost when leading after two periods.
“It means a lot,” said winger Bobby Ryan, who scored the tying goal for the Ducks after they trailed 2-1 going into the third period. “They’ve made a statement to run away with it so far, and we’ve quietly just gone about our business…. To be three points back with a game in hand is huge.”
The Ducks also have the advantage of playing their next five games on their home ice, where they’re 13-1-0 so far. In a lockout-shortened season, every win counts, and so far they’re not wasting their opportunities.
Center Ryan Getzlaf pushed the Ducks over the top, assisting on Ryan’s equalizer and then setting up Teemu Selanne on the go-ahead score, both coming in a span of 5½ minutes. On top of that, he was fighting off the flu on Wednesday night. Selanne’s goal gave him a career total of 1,425 points, moving him into a tie with Bryan Trottier for 15th place in career scoring. It was also the 107th game-winning goal of his career.
“It’s a big relief,” he said, smiling. “Lately I’ve had some bad luck. Today I had so many chances, but the last couple of games I’ve felt that luck was not on my side. But it’s always good. It gives you a lot of confidence, but the win was the most important.”
Selanne fired in the decider with just 4 minutes, 23 seconds left in regulation after Getzlaf dropped off a pass in perfect position for the veteran winger to slip it past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.
“If you look at how Getz has played the whole season, he comes through when the time is most critical,” Selanne said. “That’s what the best players do. He’s playing an MVP season right now, and it’s fun to watch. You just need a beer and hot dog to watch.”
The game very much had a playoff atmosphere, with a strong Blackhawks crowd that at times seemed to outnumber and out-shout Ducks fans. But they went silent as soon as Selanne scored, and they were out of their seats and headed to the parking lot when Sheldon Souray dropped in an empty-netter with 20.7 seconds remaining.
“It was pretty exciting,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “My heart rate was up a little bit there for most of the game. It looked to me just like a playoff game. We were lucky to come out on top.”
But he surely must be getting used to it. The Ducks lead the league with six third-period comebacks and now have 14 come-from-behind wins, the most by any NHL team through 29 games since the 1987-88 season.
“We don’t expect to come back, but we think we can,” Boudreau said. “We have great leadership.”
Clearly, they have also learned from their mistakes of last season. The Ducks are 12-2-2 when their opponent scores first compared to 1-11-2 through 29 games last season.
“We’re just a resilient hockey club,” Ryan said. “We learned a lot from last year, and it’s a lot of the same core guys that were here for that and were on the other side of it.
“We all had some time to think about it this summer. There’s just a belief in the room that the goalies are going to stand tall in the third and you know we’re going to pepper the net, and when you go to the net, good things are going to happen.”
They’re happening so far. But there’s still a long way to go.