Regardless of their opponent, whether it be Detroit or Columbus, or any team in between, the Ducks need points and wins. Going into Minnesota on Tuesday, the first of back to back games, the Ducks goal was no different than any other game – win.
Minnesota, currently slumping after being on top of the NHL back in the fall, initially appeared to be stopping that slump, leading 1-0 most of the game. Instead, the Ducks pulled it together and got their first win of the season when trailing after two periods and came out with a 2-1 regulation win.
The win nudged the team just a little bit closer to playoff contention. They are still eight points out of a playoff spot, but in December, that number was 16 points out. Even if they manage to defeat Pittsburgh on Wednesday, they still will be in 13th place in the Western Conference, but there is denying they are inching upwards.
For a long time during the game, it looked like the Ducks were not going to be able to get anything past Josh Harding and the Wild. After Dany Heatley got an early power play goal at 3:56 of the first period, Harding helped the Wild hold that lead until the third period.
Jonas Hiller did his part in stopping everything else that came his way and gave Anaheim a chance to get back into the game. It just took a while.
Niklas Hagman, who was the 8th round shootout savior for the Ducks a week ago, came through again for the team. Working hard, he beat Harding at 8:17 of the third period to tie up the game, scoring from his stomach.
Hagman, who was picked up by the Ducks on re-entry waivers from Calgary on November 14, has been a good fit with Anaheim and contributed positively, night in, night out. His efforts against the Wild were the turning point for the Ducks.
“If they would have gotten that next one, I don’t think there is a good chance we get two by him,” said Bruce Boudreau about Harding. “But when we tied it up, it gave us some life.”
That life translated to Corey Perry getting the game winning goal just a few minutes later at 12:21. Perry continued to show why he is was the league MVP last year and put a well placed puck behind Harding that the goalie had no chance to stop.
They held on to win, something that did not look possible when the third period began.
“We’re just playing the same way the whole game and not trying to do different things or be too cute when we get down,” Perry observed. “That’s what we’ve been doing since we’ve been on this roll and we have to keep doing it.”
They will need to do it against Pittsburgh, a team that is closer to a Detroit caliber than Columbus. The Ducks recalled Jeff Deslauriers from Syracuse a couple days ago and sent Iiro Tarkki back down. Perhaps the plan is to put Deslauriers in net, to give relief to Hiller. The last time they played Hiller in back to back games, it did not turn out so well. No sense having a second goalie if you don’t use him.
Regardless of who is in net, the Ducks need the win just as bad.