The Ducks ended their seven game homestand on a positive note with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, their final Eastern Conference opponent this season. The win let them creep up one notch in the Western Conference standings, but they still remain two points out of a playoff spot, the same as it was before they played the Rangers. Welcome to the playoff treadmill.
Anaheim started slowly and the opposing team scored first yet again. Brandon Dubinsky got his 20th of the year by finishing off a 3 on 2 rush with the puck going over Dan Ellis’ shoulder and into the net at 3:30 in the first period.
The Rangers were coming off a dominating 7-0 defeat of Philadelphia and looked like they could be headed to further offensive glory against the Ducks. The Ducks put a kibosh on those ideas.
“Even though we gave up the first goal it didn’t deter our attitude towards the hockey game,” said coach Randy Carlyle. “We went out and did what we had to do to get the job done. Our players were rewarded for their hard work.”
Teemu Selanne had cautioned that before the game that the best way to get pucks past Henrik Lundqvist was not to let him see them. Apparently his teammates listened.
The Ducks, who woke up quickly after Dubinsky scored, tied up the game with Corey Perry’s goal at 7:34 that ping ponged off Dan Girardi’s foot and into the net behind Lundqvist.
Lubomir Visnovsky, who leads all NHL defensemen in scoring, gave the Ducks their first lead at 9:19 on a shot that was screened by plenty of traffic and deflected off another Rangers defenseman. For good measure, he added another goal at 19:19 that had a little assistance going in, this time off a Rangers stick.
Anaheim couldn’t buy a bounce in the last game against Vancouver. This time, they seemed to be paid back in full.
Things remained the same until the third period. Ellis made a spectacular save on Dubinsky and the top line for the Ducks headed the other way, with Bobby Ryan popping the puck behind Lundqvist. After a brief review of the highlight reel save by Ellis, who got the puck with the shaft of his stick, the game was 4-1 instead of 3-2 at 2:19.
“The other guy was streaking down also and so I just tried to throw anything back there at that point,” said Ellis of the most important of his 30 saves on the night. “When you have the whole net open, you try to get anything you can. Fortunately it hit me.”
It was the turning point in the game.
Despite a power play goal from Marian Gaborik at 5:31, the Rangers never got closer than that. Perry’s second of the evening at 14:36 gave fans free wings at Hooters and sealed the deal for Anaheim.
“The puck just seemed to work for all three of us tonight,” Ryan said of himself, Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. “We were able to hold onto it. Perry behind the net wore down defensemen by making them turn different ways. We were good on the forecheck. It was a nice night all around for the three of us.”
Lundqvist could not disagree.
“I think their first line absolutely dominated our team tonight,” said the goalie, who matched his season-high by allowing all five goals. “They made it tough for us. We gave away the puck all night, and they’re sharp — that first line is very skilled.”
The Ducks now have 15 games remaining in the regular season, nine of them coming against Pacific Division rivals.
“A lot of four-point games coming up and that’s certainly not lost in this room,” commented Ryan. “The guys are well aware of that. There’s going to be a lot of jockeying for position here down the stretch. I think the team’s excited for it.”
The Ducks can ill afford to sleep through any of them, but if they can play to the level they did against New York, they will give themselves a chance to win.
In other notes: Defenseman Luca Sbisa played in his 100th NHL game and did so with the knowledge that he is signed for the next four years with Anaheim. He was awarded a four year, $8.7 million contract extension on Tuesday that is win-win for both Sbisa and Anaheim.
Saku Koivu returned to line up after missing several games with a groin injury, but Jason Blake remained out with a hand laceration. 20 stitches were removed earlier on Wednesday, but Blake was still not deemed ready to return. He is a possibility for Friday against Colorado.