A lot of things culminated for the Ducks tonight – an awesome month for Jonas Hiller, a revamped power play, the maturation of the young defensemen, and whatever strain of influenza is running through the visitors’ dressing room.
Randy Carlyle wasn’t afraid to highlight the latter in explaining the Ducks’ most lopsided win of the season and their largest on home ice since Dec. 20, 1996, a 7-0 win over Calgary.
“We were able to establish that template,” Carlyle said. “When we do
get on the puck and establish that strong forechecking game, we are a
hockey club that can be effective. Tonight was one of those nights. We
caught Columbus when they were a flat hockey club. They had the flu go
through their team. We seemed to have a half step on them tonight.”
Teemu Selanne scored two power-play goals, giving him 228 in his career, and his first goals since Dec. 8. Bobby Ryan also scored a pair, and Matt Beleskey and Brandon McMillan netted one apiece.
Cam Fowler recorded
a career-high three assists – the third
multi-point game of his career. His 21 points in 38 games this
season lead all NHL rookie defensemen. Luca Sbisa had an assist and a good all-around game. There were enough good all-around games to go around, in fact, that Corey Perry logged but 14:36 time on ice.
Saku Koivu stepped nicely into his new role as the first-unit power-play center to set up Selanne’s first goal, an experiment that seemed to work as Anaheim scored three power-play goals.
“Saku has had some chemistry with Teemu over the
years,” Carlyle said. “We decided it wasn’t working the other way. We thought we’d move
some personnel in and out. That is the one change, putting a natural
center in that position and tonight we were rewarded for that.”
Hiller could have had his worst game in two weeks and still won, but decided to turn in his best just to be safe. His 27-save shutout was his third of the season and the ninth of his career. He’s in the midst of a five-game stretch that has seen him go 4-1-0 with a .962 save percentage and 1.20 goals-against average.
It wasn’t as diametrically opposite from Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Nashville as the final score would suggest, but the Ducks were far more aggressive getting to the net and far more successful finding holes against Steve Mason, who was pulled late in the third period.
“We were down and dropped a dud during the
homestand. It’s an important time of year not to do that,” Ryan said. “Tonight
revealed a lot of character about the team in the way we bounced back.
You got a 20-man effort all the way through. It was nice to see guys