Ducks host Sharks in pursuit of postseason
The Ducks (27-19-10) are playing well of late in the scramble for a postseason berth in the Pacific Division, winning two straight and four of their last five. Anaheim defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night with center Ryan Kesler scoring the decisive goal in the third period and John Gibson stopping 30-of-32 shots for his sixth win in his last seven decisions (6-1-0).
Gibson also improved to 7-2-1 in his last 11 home games and his health down the stretch is a must for the Ducks to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season. He has been nagged by injuries that has pressed backup Ryan Miller into service for 14 starts but when healthy, Gibson is the best the Ducks have between the pipes.
Defenseman Hampus Lindholm reinforced the importance of a healthy No. 1 goaltender after his performance in Friday's victory.
"John has been playing unreal," Lindholm said. "He's a world-class goalie, everyone knows that. You're comfortable when he's in there and he's comfortable with us in front of him. It was nice to see him back in net."
The matchup is the final contest of the four-game season series with San Jose winning two of the first three games. The teams traded overtime victories before the Sharks dominated the most recent contest 6-2 in Anaheim on Jan. 21. Though the blowout loss was three weeks ago, the memory of it remains fresh in coach Randy Carlyle's memory.
"They outworked us. We got frustrated with their work ethic and they tracked us," Carlyle told the Orange County Register on Saturday. "We found ways to take penalties and then we got undisciplined.
"We were more worried about other things that we couldn't control versus what was happening on the ice. Be it the refereeing, the linesmen, and it was disappointing because it was a major game on our schedule."
Winger Corey Perry, who has suffered through another underperforming season (11 goals, 21 assists and a minus-5 rating) is showing signs of a productive stretch run. He registered a goal Friday and has seven points in his last four games (three goals, four assists).
Anaheim will depart on a pivotal four-game road trip starting Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks (29-18-8) blew a 3-0 lead but scored the final three goals in a 6-4 victory over Edmonton at HP Pavilion on Saturday night. Rookie Joachim Ryan scored his first two NHL goals, including the decisive score at 17:33 of the third period after the Oilers had rallied to get a 4-3 lead.
Joe Pavelski registered two goals and two assists as the Sharks broke a two-game losing streak and won for only the third time in nine games (3-4-2).
"The goals are something I will remember the rest of my life," Ryan said. "It's great to get the first one out of the way and the second one was just a bonus. It was a great start for us but we cannot be giving up the lead like we did. We regrouped after the second period and just came out determined to win the game. The rest of the season are like playoff games, it is a sprint to the end."
Pavelski praised Ryan on his game and agreed the team needs to be much sharper to get the victory in Anaheim.
"We had 12 minutes that was not very good, those things are going to happen," Pavelski said. "I'm really proud of the guys, we had a great start and didn't get down when we lost the lead. It was a good time for Joachim to come through for us, his second goal was a big one because these points are important for us. He has been solid, it is not easy stepping into a role and play big minutes, he is doing a great job."
The trip to Anaheim is the lone road contest in an 11-day stretch that began Thursday and features five home games. The Sharks will return home after the game and play three straight at SAP Center beginning with Arizona on Tuesday night.