ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was only about 10 days ago the Ducks were written off as one of the worst power play teams in the NHL. In a season full of highlights, special teams has not been one of them.
But the Ducks displayed some much-improved special teams play Monday night at the Honda Center in a 5-2 win over the Islanders. Don’t expect them to go back to the way it once was.
“We started to focus a little bit,” said center Ryan Getzlaf. “In the beginning of the season, we were so focused on getting out to a good start and we weren’t really practicing our special teams that much. We did a great job focusing in and understanding what’s needed to be successful.”
The Ducks’ special teams looked strong, scoring a power play goal and only their second short-handed goal of the season. They did give up one goal on the power play to John Tavares, but the Ducks bounced back and had three penalty kills that nearly amounted to 15 more penalty minutes.
The Ducks have now scored power-play goals in seven of their last eight games – four of which have been wins.
“We’ve worked at it really hard. The first 15 games, we were atrocious on both them,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “But the last 18 games, we’ve been really good at both of them. We work hard and get on the same page.”
Goaltender Jonas Hiller has also been instrumental. Hiller has seen an increased workload with Viktor Fasth still injured but Boudreau said his goalie has been the anchor of the penalty kill unit.
“In the end, your goalie has got to be your best penalty killer,” Boudreau said. “And (Hiller) was again tonight. I thought Hiller was great. He was the difference in the whole scheme of things.”
Cam Fowler scored three points and Daniel Winnik scored two on a pair of beautiful assists. The top line of Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner produced three points and the veteran core has been the spark for the team in its recent winning stretch.
“Getzy and Pens, we’ve established ourselves and we want to play the same way each and every night,” Perry said. “I think we’ve been doing that lately.”
Perry scored twice, supplying the Ducks’ power play goal and spectacular wrist shot that he netted by dragging his stick on the ice as he was tripped up in the crease right before time expired in the second period. The goal gave Anaheim a 4-2 lead, putting the dagger in the Islanders.
“Perry, once in a while will throw something at us that we haven’t seen,” Getzlaf said. “It seemed like every time they were outplaying us, we got a goal,” Boudreau said. “Once we got to 3-2, 4-2 on the same shift, I think it took the heart out of them a little bit.”
The Ducks have now won three straight and tied with the Blackhawks at the top of the Western Conference standings with a league-leading 47 points. There are two games left in the homestand — a relatively friendly slate coming up over the next few weeks. Should this type of play continue, the Ducks may overtake the west.
“You’re always pleased when you get two points,” Boudreau said. “Whether you play good or not, the two points are important.”