Most important game of the year. Must win. The Ducks will be repeating these phrases for the rest of the season.
In the first of a three-game road trip, the Ducks did win their most important game yet of the year with a 4-3 overtime victory against the Dallas Stars. It was Anaheim’s third overtime victory in a row, making the rest of the Western Conference fret over all the three point games going on.
It didn’t have to be pretty. It didn’t have to be perfect. It did have to be a win.
“You have to win, whatever you do, you got to find a way and our guys continue to reach back,” said coach Randy Carlyle.
Lubomir Visnovsky continued his scoring ways against Dallas, putting the Ducks on the board with a power play goal at :56 of the second period. The Stars evened things up with a power play goal of their own at 9:57 from Alex Goligoski.
Then Loui Eriksson, who scores against Anaheim as frequently as Visnovsky scores against Dallas, gave the Stars the lead at 4:29 of the third period.
The Ducks immediately answered back on the next shift with a matching goal just :11 seconds later. Corey Perry got his 40th of the year thanks to a beautiful pass from Bobby Ryan. Perry is only the third Duck to score 40 goals in a season. Fellow teammate, Teemu Selanne, and former Duck, Paul Kariya, are the other two players to accomplish that feat for Anaheim.
For a game that was pretty even most of the night, the ice tilted towards Dallas when Trevor Daley scored at 13:21. That gave the Stars the lead once more and with playoff positioning on the line, they were not about to give it up.
Cue ancient wonder of the hockey world with the ability to put a puck in the net like no one else playing the game today.
With Ray Emery pulled for an extra attacker, Selanne tied up the game with a mere 6.4 seconds remaining on the clock. Selanne nearly skipped like a schoolboy on ice, a celebration he barely missed earlier in the game when the puck just barely avoided the net.
Stunned Stars fans saw the game go into overtime instead of taking two points in the standings free and clear. There was still hope for the extra point and the ability to bounce over the Ducks in the standings, but anyone who has followed Anaheim lately knew better.
Overtime is magic time for the Ducks and they have been able to pull out all the stops and make it happen in the extra time period. No trees for Choc Hospital for a shootout win. The Ducks want regulation or overtime to avoid tiebreaker heartbreak.
Once again Ryan made it happen with a well placed pass to Cam Fowler. At 1:42 Fowler made sure that all the Dallas fans, who had been standing the whole time, had nothing to cheer about. The Ducks sure did, though.
“It shows the resiliency of our team and how there’s no quit no matter what the circumstances are,” Fowler said. “You can always rely on some of the veterans to step up when the game is on the line. Teemu did that for us tonight. Bobby gave me a great pass in overtime. I didn’t really have much work left to do.”
They now take that momentum to Nashville tomorrow night to take on another team that is only one point away in the standings. There will be plenty of work to do. It will be the most important game of the year. They must win.
In other notes: Jonas Hiller not only went on the road trip, but also was activated off IR and sat on the bench in back up of Emery. When he will see action next is unknown, but clearly he is ready when the opportunity arises. Considering the fact that some doubted his ability to return this season from the awful vertigo that plagued him, this is nothing short of miraculous.