At the end of a seven game road trip, the Ducks needed a decent effort to take them back home again. After two really poor games against both Buffalo and Los Angeles, the Ducks rebounded to get a 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
All of the Ducks players had individual meetings with coach Randy Carlyle after the uninspired loss to the Kings on Sunday night. Whatever was said in those meetings made a difference, at least for this game.
Phoenix had several good chances early on in the game, but Jonas Hiller came up strong from the very first shot in the very first shift and made 31 saves for the win.
“The whole team had to play better than in Los Angeles,” said Hiller after the game. “I knew I wanted to play better than my last game, too.”
Hiller had a lot of help from his defense in front of him. In addition to the 31 shots he saved, his teammates blocked 17 additional shots. Of those, Andreas Lilja took seven for the team.
“He probably made the difference tonight,” Hiller praised. “He had more saves than myself!”
Lilja, who has been a healthy scratch at times this year, acted as if it was another day at the office.
“Some people score goals, my job is to block shots,” said the pragmatic Lilja. “This was a big win for us. We have to realize what time of year it is. We need to put some wins up; otherwise we’re not going to be playing come April.”
Stopping pucks from going in the net was important, but just as important was putting the puck in the other net. The Ducks were able to do that as well.
Luca Sbisa got his first ever NHL goal at 4:38 of the first period. It seemed odd that a guy with 73 NHL games spread over three seasons was just getting his first goal, but it was true. Assists, yes. A goal in the NHL? Now he has one of those as well, and this one was a hard shot from the point and gave the Ducks the boost they needed.
That was followed up by a goal from Joffrey Lupul that went in and out so fast, it took a long video review to conclude it had been there at 8:16.
Corey Perry finished off the scoring for Anaheim after getting a lovely turnover from Sami Lepisto at 15:20. The Ducks were able to take a 3-0 lead with them to the locker room.
Some penalty difficulties gave Phoenix not one but two 5 on 3 advantages. The first one was 1:56 long and it was inevitable that the Coyotes would score. It took them nearly the entire time, but finally Shane Doan put the puck behind Hiller at 15:39. The second one did not yield another goal, thanks to Hiller, Lilja and company.
It was a good thing that the Ducks scored in the first period, because Ilya Bryzgalov did not let in anything else. Bryzgalov was back in net for the first time since being clobbered in the head by Jamie Langenbrunner in New Jersey nearly two weeks ago.
The Ducks now get to head home to their own beds and a long extended time at the Honda Center, playing the next six games at home and seven of the next eight.
They will head home with a stitched up Ryan Getzlaf, who took Doan shot to the forehead at the beginning of the second period. Getzlaf left a huge pool of blood on the ice before being quickly assisted to the locker room.
“He’s got an upper-body injury, isn’t that what they say?” joked Carlyle. “He got a puck in the forehead. I can’t tell you how many stitches. He wanted to play, but I thought it was a risk to put him back in. It’s always scary when a player takes a puck in the face, but it was just below the helmet-line, so hopefully it was a compression cut.”
Hopefully Getzlaf will be ready to go on Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers. That game will help ring in the new year as well as mark the official halfway point of the season for the Ducks.