Sunday was CHOC Night at the Honda Center and after the first period, it appeared that the medical staff brought their electro shock paddles and gave the Ducks a wake-up jolt. For a team that looked like it was dead after losing five games in a row, there was still a little bit of life in them.
The Sharks had played the night before in San Jose, but this was the first time in four games that the Ducks took advantage of a tired team and finished off what they started. San Jose might have dominated Anaheim all season, seemingly extra motivated after losing to the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs last spring, but tonight the Ducks changed direction. A 4-2 victory prevented a San Jose sweep of the season series, something that had not happened since the 1997-1998 season.
Corey Perry put the Ducks on the board at 3:27 by lifting the puck up and over Evgeni Nabokov. Bobby Ryan had his shot stopped by Nabokov’s blocker pads and the goalie had already fallen backwards into the net, thinking the puck was underneath him. Perry swooped in and finished things off. It was the first lead in three games for the Ducks.
At 7:40, Teemu Selanne got goal #599 with a beautiful finish (Finnish?) of a Saku Koivu pass. He tried valiantly to add #600 and came close at least three times. After catching an edge in the third period and landing awkwardly, Selanne did not return to make the milestone in this game. He was diagnosed with an upper body injury and will be evaluated further on Monday.
“We’ve got to find a way to keep playing like that,” Selanne astutely commented between the first and second periods.
Selanne also added an assist on the third goal of the first period, assist #646 of his career for 57th best. The assist came on Lubomir Visnovsky’s third goal as a Duck, but the credit all goes to Dan Sexton.
Big Sexy finally got off the third and fourth line and found his spark again on the second line. Regardless of what he’s listed at, 5’8″ 170 pound Sexton had a humongous hip check sending 6’4″ 230 pound Joe Thornton topsy turvy into the boards. Sexton then chased down the puck, speeding in on Nabokov. He picked up the puck and tossed it back to Visnovsky, who was in the middle of the blue line. Visnovsky let off the shot, which hopped past Nabokov at 19:05, sending the Honda Center into a frenzy and causing concern in overconfident Sharks fans.
“I saw (Thornton) coming and just tried to put a hip into him,” said Sexton. “Wasn’t expecting to knock him down. Usually I’m the one that goes down. I guess it looked better than it probably was. We scored right after that. I guess that’s a little more important!”
San Jose, who might have underestimated the Ducks just a teensy tiny bit, found their second wind in the middle period and starting throwing everything at Jonas Hiller. Hiller either saw everything or had the shots blocked in front of him.
The Sharks refused to give up and finally put one behind Hiller at 9:06. Jamie McGinn got the puck out from behind he net and Thornton came screaming down the slot to finish it off. 3-1 Sharks and suddenly the San Jose contingent in the building work up.
An empty net goal from Ryan seemed to put the game away at 18:47, but McGinn made it 4-2 at 19:04. The Sharks threw everything at Hiller, but he saved everything else to preserve the win. The first win since February 14.
“We’ve got to play that way every time,” said Hiller about the aggressive game. “Staying back is not working for us. We have to have the emotions. We have to play physical. Then we’ll get our chances.”
Now the key is for the Ducks to play like that for the remaining 14 games in the season. They are not mathematically eliminated, but they are still eight points out of a playoff spot and unlikely to make them up. If they play like this the rest of the way, the Ducks can certainly make it interesting.
In other notes: Ryan Getzlaf re-tweaked his ankle during the game and left during the third period. He is listed as day-to-day and will be re-evaluated tomorrow as well.
CHOC Night was a success overall, honoring Anaheim’s partnership with the local Children’s Hospital. Special autographed jersey CHOCO bears were on sale for $60 each. You could text “CHOC” to 90999 on your phone to donate $5.00 to the organization. The entire dasherboards were devoted to CHOC for the evening, something that all the other advertising sponsors happily agreed to do and the first time ever in NHL history. CHOC patients skated out and stood with the starting line-up of players during the National Anthem.