The Ducks continue their winning ways and continue to earn points on the road with a 2-0 defeat of the Florida Panthers. In the past, the Panthers might have been an “easy” team to play, but this year they are on top of the Southeast Division and have a playoff berth.
Lately, though, it does not matter who the Ducks are playing. They are finding ways to get points and continue to inch infinitesimally closer to a playoff spot. They are still in 13th place in the Western Conference, but only five points out of 8th place. Only two points separates between 13th and 10th. Slowly but surely, the Ducks are making a run for it.
“Everybody’s believed for a long time that we had a chance to climb back,” said Teemu Selanne. “We’re still not really there, but we’re in the right direction. It’s a good sign that even tonight I don’t think we played that well, but we found a way to win the game. Jonas (Hiller) was really good today again. That’s what we need.”
Having Hiller on top of his game certainly helps. He made 31 saves in his third shutout of the season and has earned first star of the week honors for his recent play.
Hiller is 13-3-4 since the beginning of January. This week Anaheim went 3-0-1, all on the road and all with Hiller in net, including back to back games in Minnesota and Pittsburgh. He stopped 98 of 102 shots he faced, and Hiller has allowed two goals or fewer in 17 of his past 20 appearances.
Even superb goaltending will not win you games if you do not have offense. If you need confirmation of that, all you have to do is ask the Los Angeles Kings.
Against Florida, it was Selanne who provided enough offense for the Ducks to win the game. At 12:13 of the first period, Selanne got career goal #657 by putting the puck past Jose Theodore.
That moves Selanne into sole possession of 12th place on the all time goals list, moving ahead of Brendan Shanahan. He is only 4 goals away from Jaromir Jagr, who might be motivated to score a couple more with Selanne closing in.
With his 20th goal of the season, Selanne also became the oldest player to score 20 goals in a season since Johnny Bucyk in 1976-77.
“He’s scored so many goals, I don’t even know where we would be without him this year,” said Hiller. “He’s still one of the quickest guys out there and he knows where to go. It seems like he always is at the right spot where he gets the greasy goals and it’s really important for us, especially on the road, where we don’t score too many goals.”
Niklas Hagman, who had been hurt in the first period with a blindside hit from Sean Bergenheim, finished up the game after a lengthy absence and added an empty net goal with :14.3 seconds left in the game to seal the deal.
The Ducks now head up the road a little to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning on Tuesday night. They will finish up their long road trip on Thursday against Carolina. If they can continue to succeed on the road, they might not want to come home!