After an emotion-filled, high-intensity game against the Kings on Monday, the Ducks had a tough time matching that passion two days later against the Oilers. The effort was not Anaheim’s best, but in the end, they got it done and extended their home winning streak to a franchise record 11 games.
From the way the team played, you would not have known that the Oilers were the last place team in the NHL. The Ducks made them look stellar.
“They are a good skating team. Their record doesn’t dictate the type of team that they are,” said former Oiler Todd Marchant, who ended up with the game winning goal in the third period. “There is a lot of pride in that room. They go out and work hard every night. That’s why they’re professionals.”
Missing Ryan Getzlaf from the line-up with a sprained ankle, the Ducks had to shuffle their lines. The top line still produced, with Corey Perry doing his usual dirty work behind the net, digging out a puck and getting it to Bobby Ryan. Ryan quickly put the puck behind Jeff Deslauriers at 13:58.
In the second period, the Ducks forgot the basic concept that a power play is supposed to be an advantage for the team with the extra player on the ice. Out of three power plays (and a partial at the end of the period), the Ducks allowed not one but two short-handed goals. That actually doubled Edmonton’s short-handed tallies for the season.
The first was from Ryan Potulny as Edmonton did nice work in the Ducks end and finished off their chance with a roofed shot behind Jonas Hiller at 6:22. The second, at 14:13, was just plain inexcusable and sloppy work from the Ducks. James Wisniewski flubbed the puck at the blue line trying to get it to Scott Niedermayer. Ethan Moreau happily intercepted the puck and took off down the ice. Hiller did not exactly do his part to stop the breakaway shot and that gave the Oilers a very unacceptable (and embarassing for the Ducks) lead. When was the last time Moreau scored? 30 games ago.
Then again, the entire effort against Edmonton was inexcusable and sloppy. While coach Randy Carlyle says he “never critiques a win,” this was one that should have been the exception to the rule.
Ryan saved the Ducks butts by finally getting the power play goal at 15:22, his second of the game. Were it not for that redemption, the Ducks looked like they needed to waive off any future power plays for fear that Edmonton would further their lead. Or worse, Edmonton would just take penalties as a new goal-scoring strategy.
The Ducks made it much harder on themselves than was necessary. Finally in the third period, the Ducks regained the lead with a goal from Todd Marchant at 8:21. Wisniewski, trying to redeem his screw-up earlier, took a signature rocket of a shot from the blue line and Marchant tipped in the shot. No chance for Deslauriers with the speed of the shot and the traffic in front.
“We work on a drill in practice where we do the high tip,” said Marchant. “I just happened to be the guy that went up there. Wiz made a great play and I just kept my stick on the ice and redirected it. It found its way through.”
Hiller came up huge, again, giving the Ducks a chance to win and stopping 37 shots.
“You don’t win in the NHL without solid goaltending,” praised Carlyle. “Jonas has done his fair share for our hockey club, for sure. He has been giving us a chance pretty consistently.”
How consistent? Hiller has won five of his last six starts, stopping 206 of 218 shots for a .945 save percentage. Goals against during that time? 1.97.
The Ducks now have a tough back-to-back this weekend against Calgary and Edmonton. Calgary is currently in the 8th and final playoff spot, just two points ahead of the Ducks. The points could not be bigger.
“It’s all about getting points and it doesn’t matter how you get them,” said Carlyle. “You have to find a way to win in the NHL and that is not easy in this league.”
Marchant had a pretty good game plan for the weekend.
“We’ve got to play like we did against LA,” Marchant shrewdly observed. “More so than we did tonight.”
Amen to that.