Winning sure feels good. Especially when wins are so few and far between for the Ducks.
It was a 4-2 defeat of the New York Islanders, second worst team in the Eastern Conference and third worst in the NHL. But a win is a win and the Ducks desperately needed one for their psyche.
After GM Bob Murray told the media that everyone on the team was for sale (except Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, who both have no trade clauses), apparently the guys got the message. Start playing to your abilities or start packing your bags for another city.
The “motivational” speech worked.
The Ducks might have started off the game against the Islanders flatter than a pancake, but they figured it out by the middle of the second period. Any other team, and they might have been sunk by then, but the Islanders did not look any sharper than the Ducks.
The sparse and sarcastic crowd applauded the first shot on goal by the Ducks, which did not come until 11 minutes into the first period. Never a good sign.
After a boring and scoreless first period, the Islanders decided to put a Duck in the net. Clearly the coach did not enunciate when he told his team to put a PUCK in the net.
The first penalty of the came did not come until after the midway point of the second. The Ducks had some good opportunities on the power play, but could not put one past Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov, who played for a long time in San Jose, certainly knows the Ducks well.
After the penalty expired, Nabokov could not prevent a juicy rebound that went straight to Bobby Ryan. Ryan, who was in front of the net, finished it off, giving the Ducks their first lead of the evening at 14:18.
Ryan was clearly pumped up and getting his teammates excited, too.
Too bad some of that momentum got sucked out.
Less than two minutes later, Jonas Hiller had a puck behind him lying on the goal line. Reaching behind him, instead of clearing the puck, he pushed it into his own net. File that under dumb things goalies should not do, but probably do at least once in their careers.
Matt Martin was credited with the goal at 16:04 and the game was tied once more.
In the third period, Kyle Okposo had a beautiful chance early on to give the Islanders a lead, but he whiffed on the pass that came to him. Good thing, because it would have gone in the gaping opening in the net as Hiller was caught out of position.
Okposo got his goal a little later at 6:20, putting the puck up and over Hiller’s shoulder. Now the Islanders did have a 2-1 lead and with the way things have gone for Anaheim lately, that sinking feeling appeared.
With Francois Beauchemin in the penalty box for a tripping call he clearly disputed, it really seemed like things were turning New York’s way. Instead, the Ducks held steady and had a turning point of their own.
Getting his second goal of the game, Ryan tied things up at 9:22 while shorthanded in a move that has already been discussed as “goal of the year” material. It was definitely a thing of beauty and Corey Perry’s assist earned him his 400th NHL point.
After that, the Ducks played like a totally different team.
While 4 on 4 with two players in the penalty box, Ryan Getzlaf made it 3-2 at 12:25. Getzlaf had not scored in over a month. The relief on his face and high level of emotion upon scoring spoke volumes.
“You don’t want to say it’s a statement game (for Getzlaf) but it was,” said Ryan. “It’s nice to see him get rewarded because he’s putting in the work, doing the right things and those are things that people don’t see.”
The old guy, Selanne, got the insurance marker at 17:06, making it 4-2. Nabokov left another juicy rebound available and when it comes off Selanne’s stick, you know it is going to go in the net. Nabokov fell to the ice, clearly embarrassed and dismayed at his error. The Honda Center erupted.
Holding on for the win, the Ducks got a standing ovation and cheers. Too little opportunity for that this season.
“It’s refreshing – we haven’t heard our win song in a while,” Ryan said. “It’s two points and a starting point so hopefully we can string some things together here and move forward. It was definitely like a monkey off our back.”
Another big monkey would be the ability to win two in a row. Seeing as Columbus comes to town on Sunday (the worst team in the NHL) and they will be playing the second of back to back games, there just might be a chance….