Coming off a 4-3 victory over Vancouver, the Ducks wanted to continue a strong performance on the road. Going into Calgary has always been a challenge for Anaheim, although not nearly as vexing as a visit to Joe Louis Arena. Things looked questionable for a while, but the Ducks managed to eke out a 5-4 overtime victory over the Flames and bump up a couple spots in the Western Conference standings.
Curtis McElhinney, who has been excellent while Jonas Hiller has been out, got the nod again for the third game in a row. Hiller was activated off the IR and continues to improve, but is still not 100% and good enough to start a game. He was sitting on the bench as back-up, however, which is definite progress.
The Ducks got strong play from their second line all night long. Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jason Blake all stepped up and were prime contributors to the Ducks victory.
Koivu got his first of two goals on the evening at 13:04 of the first period, with the puck going quickly in and out of the net. But in is in, no matter how brief.
Calgary regrouped in the first intermission and Rene Bourgue and Olli Jokinen scored :41 seconds apart to give the Flames their first lead in the game less than 4:00 minutes into the second. Coach Randy Carlyle was livid on the bench and took his timeout, using it to express his displeasure at two extremely poor shifts and defensive breakdowns.
Anaheim responded to the time out and Koivu tied up the game at 7:34. The Ducks regained the lead at 10:12 with a short handed goal from Brandon McMillan. Miikka Kiprusoff clearly felt McMillan was going to make a pass to Corey Perry and prepared for that scenario. McMillan chose to shoot instead and easily put the puck behind Kiprusoff.
McMillan continues to shine this season. In 34 games he has scored 7 goals, two of which have been short-handed. He has been a good fit for the Ducks and with 2 goals and an assist in the past three games, he shows no signs of returning to the AHL any time soon.
The Ducks took the 3-2 ead into the third period. Thus far, the Ducks are undefeated when leading after two periods. It looked like those stats might change when Jarome Iginla tied up the game once more at 5:33 and Curtis Glencross handed Calgary the lead with a beautiful shot at 8:18.
It appeared that the Flames would gain two points and pass the Ducks in the standings, but Glencross took the only Flames penalty of the game late in the period. It would end up costing Calgary an extra point.
The venerable 40 year old ageless Finnish wonder, Teemu Selanne, scored on the power play that had two extra players with McElhinney pulled. With three assists on the evening, Selanne added another four points to his already stellar totals.
The game remained tied in regulation and went to overtime. Both teams had their chances in the extra session and it seemed inevitable that they would go to a shootout.
Rookie Cam Fowler had other ideas. With just :18.6 seconds left, Fowler redeemed himself from an earlier defensive breakdown that led to the Flames third goal. It was his second chance in overtime and the second one did not miss the net.
“Luckily it went in,” said Fowler. “I didn’t get as much on it as I would have liked and it looked like it fooled him a little bit. This was huge for us. If we drop this one, Calgary jumps ahead of us in the standings and now we bump up. You can just see the degree of difficulty that’s involved in a conference like this. Every game is huge and all the points matter and we’re lucky to come out of here with two.”
The Ducks are now in 5th place in the standings and continue to give themselves a chance at the post-season. They now dangerously head into Edmonton, the worst team in the conference, and cannot afford to take it “easy” against the Oilers.
In other notes: Francois Beauchemin was inserted into the line up after being acquired on Wednesday morning from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Ducks dressed seven defensemen, using Andy Sutton as a forward on the fourth line. Timo Pielmeier was sent back to the ECHL as Hiller was activated off IR. There is no room in Syracuse since the Ducks signed Ray Emery and he has finally gotten his immigration paperwork completed.