Ducks come up big when it matters
The Anaheim Ducks stumbled into their dressing room with their playoff hopes teetering. They had just given up 22 shots to Edmonton in a horrific second period, and even workhorse goalie Jonas Hiller couldn’t stop the last one from denting his net for the tying goal.
Coach Bruce Boudreau thought about ripping his team – until he realized the players were already tearing into each other. The Ducks are drained and desperate, yet they keep finding more energy to chase an improbable postseason berth.
Bobby Ryan scored the tiebreaking goal on a breakaway with 11:51 to play, and Corey Perry netted two goals in the final minutes of the Ducks’ 4-2 victory over the Oilers on Monday night.
Jonas Hiller made 34 saves in his 26th consecutive start as the Ducks emerged from a brutal stretch of six games in nine days in 12th place in the Western Conference with 68 points, closing within five of eighth-place San Jose. They’re still a long shot for the postseason, but they’ve also got 42 points since Jan. 1, tying them with St. Louis for the NHL’s best record in 2012.
”We still believe in this dressing room,” said Perry, who scored his 200th NHL goal with 3:20 to play before putting another puck into an empty net with 1:14 left. ”If we keep winning our share of games, we’re going to be there.”
Jordan Eberle scored a power-play goal for Edmonton in between Perry’s goals, but the Ducks hung on for their fifth straight win over Edmonton. Jason Blake had an early power-play goal for the Ducks, who have won 10 of 11 over Edmonton.
Shawn Horcoff’s slick deflection goal in the final minute of the second period tied it for the Oilers, who lost for the fourth time in five games despite dominating the weary Ducks for most of the final two periods. Edmonton could have had a bushel of goals in the second period if not for Hiller, who hasn’t taken a game off since Jan. 10.
”I was worried about this game, because I knew if we took them a little bit lightly, we were going to lose,” said Teemu Selanne, who moved into a 19th-place tie on the NHL’s career scoring list with Jari Kurri, his fellow Finn and personal hero.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves for the NHL’s worst road team (9-21-2), but the Russian goalie was heading to the bench for an extra skater when Perry scored his second goal.
Edmonton seemed firmly in control of the tied game before Ryan slipped behind the Oilers and took a pass from Selanne. Ryan flipped a backhand past Khabibulin while falling flat on his chest on the ice, scoring his 25th goal for the fourth consecutive season.
Selanne’s assist pulled him even with Kurri’s 1,398 points. The Finnish Flash said Kurri texted him about breaking the record a couple of weeks ago, asking why it was taking him so long.
”He was the picture that was on my wall growing up,” Selanne said. ”I would never imagine I would have as many points as Jari Kurri.”
Niklas Hagman then jumped on a turnover by former Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney and fed it cross-ice to Perry, who scored his 32nd goal of the season.
Two days after Boudreau ripped the officiating in a loss at Los Angeles, the Ducks weren’t called for a penalty until Selanne got a debatable tripping call with 2:47 to play. Edmonton pulled Khabibulin, and Eberle scored during the two-man advantage for the NHL’s best power play.
”We’re a young team and inexperienced, and maybe we’re not getting the calls that maybe we should,” said Horcoff, who ended his six-game goal drought. ”But listen, we’re in 29th place, so we’re not going to get a lot of breaks out there. The biggest thing for us is just to not complain, because it’s only going to make things worse. We just have to stick with it, because when we do get the power-play unit out there, we’ve proved to be successful.”
The Oilers praised Hiller, who hasn’t had a game off while backup Dan Ellis has been out with a serious groin injury.
”You’ve got to credit their goalie and the way he played,” Edmonton center Sam Gagner said. ”But I think we have to sustain our pressure for a little longer. We had a good second period, but around that, we weren’t good enough. … The chances they got were kind of five-star chances. It really costs us when we make mistakes like that. It’s really unacceptable, and it’s costing us games.”
NOTES: Oilers D Jeff Petry went to the dressing room midway through the third period apparently favoring his elbow. … Anaheim and Edmonton will meet twice in the first five days of April. … D Sheldon Brookbank played in his 200th game with Anaheim. He has scored three goals in the Ducks’ last 10 games after failing to score in his previous 167.