ANAHEIM, Calif. – The last image Los Angeles Kings fans had of their team before it headed out on the longest road trip of the season was the infamous “clockgate” moment: a bizarre clock stutter that allowed Drew Doughty to score a buzzer-beating, third-period goal, never mind the controversy that accompanied them out of LAX and en route to St. Louis.
For the Anaheim Ducks, mild controversy shrouded the circumstances of Corey Perry’s overtime tally in a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday as Perry wasn’t whistled for an apparent hooking penalty when he took down Jussi Jokinen behind Carolina’s net immediately before engineering a give-and-go, one-time blast with Sheldon Brookbank that ended the homestand and turned everyone’s focus to the eight-game, 16-day trip that opens Friday in Detroit.
“No,” Perry said when asked if he was expecting a whistle on the play. “Keep playing. They didn’t blow the whistle, so you keep playing. I found [Brookbank] coming in late. He made a great play getting it back to me.”
The controversy, if there is any, should subside quickly, no matter how irate Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller was as the Ducks celebrated the win in which they came from behind twice.
“It is what it is,” Muller said.
Wednesday’s Anaheim win will go a long way not just for the confidence of the team, but because it solidifies the message at the outset of an extended trip that there’s still plenty for this team to play for: the Ducks are in the playoff hunt.
“You look where we are in the standings, what we’ve done in the last month. Every point counts for us,” Perry said. “It doesn’t matter who it’s against or what. We needed it before the roadtrip. We didn’t want to go on the road trip on a losing note. Eight games is a long way. It can make or break our season here.”
Anaheim is eight points behind eighth-place Minnesota, a formidable though not insurmountable hill to climb, considering their torrid 15-5 stretch at the end of last season. They’re 11-3-2 in 2012, only one point behind NHL leaders Nashville and Detroit in the new calendar year.
The Red Wings welcome the Ducks to Joe Louis Arena on Friday before the trip continues in Columbus, St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Newark, Sunrise, Tampa and Raleigh.
“It’s exciting I think for all the fans and everyone, but for us it’s kind of a little nerve-wracking,” said Nick Bonino, whose second-period deflection of a Lubomir Visnovsky shot tied the game at one. “We’d obviously like to win 6-0 every game, but to win like that, you get the crowd behind you, you get some momentum going. It’s good. We know we have our work cut out for us on the road, so any time we can get rolling before, it’s good.”
Perry had maybe the most accurate words of the entire evening – this stretch of the schedule is certainly the Ducks’ make-or-break moment if they’re going to legitimately fight for a playoff spot.
“Like I said this morning, all these games that we’re going to win are going to be nailbiters,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Everybody we play from here on in is pretty well in the playoffs or got a shot at it. They’re going to play like that, so they’re going to be tough.”
NOTES: Boudreau, on whether he thought Perry may have gotten away with a non-call shortly before his game-winner: “I don’t know, I didn’t see the play, quite frankly. I’m always concerned, because you never know what’s going to be called. It was such a low-penalized game. I thought it was one of those things that you really had to do something that wasn’t borderline to get a call in that game.” … Anaheim has made up 12 points on eighth place in the last 33 days. On Jan. 6, the club was 20 points behind eighth-place Nashville; after play on Feb. 8, they’re eight points behind Minnesota. … The Ducks have scored 50 times in 16 contests in 2012 and are tied with Toronto for third in the league with 3.13 goals per game over that span. Only Nashville (3.25) and Boston (3.24) have averaged more goals per game since Jan. 1. … Anaheim was 0-4 in overtime in 2011-12 prior to Perry’s goal; the last overtime win was at Dallas on March 23, a 4-3 triumph that was the third of three consecutive OT wins. Cam Fowler netted the game-winner.