After a long stretch of games on the road, the Ducks are finally home. They started off a six-game home stand with a decisive 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers to end 2010 on a positive note.
Game 41, the halfway point of the season for the Ducks, and the having played more games than anyone else in the Western Conference, every win is critical.
Jason Blake, who only had one goal in the month of December, got two for his efforts against the Flyers. His first came at 5:10 of the first period, when he had a bit of a breakaway and took the time he needed to place his shot perfectly over Sergei Bobrovsky’s glove hand.
The Ducks continued to find the net in the second period with Lubomir Visnovsky putting in a pretty goal with some fancy stickhandling at 3:58. Teemu Selanne had his shot blocked, but Visnovsky picked up the puck and showed the Finn how to do it.
A power play opportunity, one of only two in the game, yielded another power play goal from Blake at 5:58. Saku Koivu made a nice pass to Lupul and Blake picked up Lupul’s rebound.
The Flyers, sensing they were being outplayed, made excellent use of a time out at 8:01 of the second period. As a result, they got on the board on the next shift with a goal from Andreas Nodl at 8:15.
Philadelphia, who easily trounced Los Angeles the night before in a 7-4 victory, pulled within a goal at 3:30 of the third period on a goal from Jeff Carter. Corey Perry turned over the puck and Carter capitalized.
“After that timeout, I knew – and I’m sure everybody did – that they were getting yelled at a little and we also knew they were going to come hard,” Blake said. “With their lineup, you’ve got to be careful. Sometimes when you get the lead, you have a tendency to maybe sit back, but you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas.”
The Ducks accelerated once more and put some space between them again with a goal from Bobby Ryan at 5:40, who had not scored since December 12. With the 4-2 lead, many in the near sellout crowd were making New Year’s Eve plans to celebrate at Hooters with free wings.
Visnovsky’s second of the night and 100th of his career at 16:51 ensured that free wings served by overly buxom women would be granted.
“I’m very happy to have 100 goals in my 10th season,” Visnovsky said with his usual boyish grin. “Everybody knows how many games and how many goals you have. I knew two more goals and I would have 100. I’m very happy I scored them before the start of the New Year.”
Despite Philadelphia’s efforts, Jonas Hiller stymied the Flyers and prevented them from getting any closer, including two crucial saves midway through the final period. Hiller stopped 35 shots and his teammates stopped another 14 with their bodies, including four blocks by Andy Sutton.
The Ducks now have five more at home and need to capitalize on that.
“We’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Blake. “Give a little extra and come ready to play.”
Ducks need to come ready to play on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The season is halfway over and they will need finish stronger than the first half if they are to make the playoffs. This effort was a good start towards that goal.
In other notes: Ryan Getzlaf remains out indefinitely with broken nasal passages, although he will not need surgery. In the interim, the Ducks have picked up 25 year old center Maxim Lapierre from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Brett Festerling and a fifth round draft pick. Without Getzlaf, the Ducks are a little thin up the middle.