In a poor season, you have to celebrate the little things that go right. For the Ducks, a solid 60 minute effort that produced a 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes is something worth celebrating.
The Ducks seemed to have a little extra jump in their step. Perhaps getting Lubomir Visnovsky back from a broken finger that caused him to miss 13 games.
“It felt like my first game this season,” said Visnovsky, who earned an assist in his first game back. “I was a little bit nervous the first shift. The first power play I felt much better. Every shift I was more confident with the puck.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau noticed the difference with Visnovsky in the line-up.
“You could tell he was sorely missed,” Boudreau said. “You look at the team’s record when he was out (2-9-2). He’s a dynamic player. When he’s in, it gives you another advantage. You don’t have to play Cam (Fowler) 26 minutes.”
Perhaps it was the new guy, Rod Pelley, getting a new chance with a new team.
Pelley, who was just acquired from New Jersey on Monday, got the spark going early on in his Ducks debut. The centerman neatly escaped from Adrian Aucoin’s efforts to keep him at bay and he went in for a point blank shot on Mike Smith. Smith did not have a chance. 1-0 Ducks at 15:48.
It was Pelley’s first of the year, and for a guy who only gets a goal about once every 30 games or so, it was a nice way to say “Hello Anaheim!”
“It was a big relief for me to get one early like that,” said Pelley after the game. “As the game went on, it almost sunk in more that I was able to contribute to the team winning the game. It was really nice to get that one, for sure.”
Perhaps it was Kyle Palmieri, recently recalled from Syracuse for the first time this season, who wanted to stay longer than a game or two. Palmieri got goal number four of the game early in the third period.
Perhaps it was the fact that the Ducks started the day in dead last in the NHL.
Whatever the motivation or the reasons, the victory was extremely satisfying. And it bumped them out of 30th place. For now. It was not a win where they barely held on. It was a got the lead and held it, secondary scoring kind of game.
The Coyotes have had the Ducks number this season, mainly number one, Jonas Hiller. They have chased him from net and had no problem putting the puck behind him. Not this time. Only one made it past Hiller, and that was Martin Hanzal on the power play at 7:31 of the second period.
The Ducks earned a power play goal of their own thanks to Niklas Hagman at 1:07 of the second period. He bookended the middle frame with his second of the game at 18:56. It was his first multi goal game since April 2010.
Going into the third period with a 3-1 lead was positive progress, but gaining a 4-1 lead with a goal from Palmieri just after another power play for the Ducks expired at 3:30.
From there on out, you could not tell if the sparse midweek crowd was more excited at the prospect of getting a win, possibly going to Hooters with five goals, or to see a Finnish guy get a hat trick. (No, not Teemu Selanne, who earned an assist on Hagman’s first goal. The point put him in sole possession of 23rd all time on the scoring list with 1,370 points.)
Hagman, the other Finn, had a couple of great opportunities to get the second hat trick of his career, but could not capitalize on them.
After the game, he was pleased with his performance and his chemistry with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He was also happy that the two goals he narrowly missed scoring were not goals that the Ducks needed to have in order to win.
“As a line, in practice, we tried to find each other a little bit better, and I felt today a couple of times we found each other well,” said Hagman. “I’ve known all the time that I can score goals and that I can play. It’s nice to get a little bit of a reward.”
That was exactly how it felt to watch the Anaheim Ducks win.
Now if they can take this show on the road and prove this was not a fluke….