Setting aside Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s breakaway goal in overtime for a moment, the Ducks did well to salvage a point against the Minnesota Wild on Friday. Two minutes away from a regulation loss on home ice, the Ducks forced overtime to remain one point behind eighth place in the Western Conference.
However, the three teams ahead of them– Chicago, Dallas and Nashville –all have one game in hand. And their slide from first place in the division (and third in the conference) on Feb. 13 to fifth place in the division (11th in the conference) shouldn’t sit well.
Remember 10 days ago how there was that 2-point gap between first and fifth place in the Pacific Division? It’s a 9-point gap now.
“We have to look at the positives,” said defenseman Francois Beauchemin, whose putback goal with 2:00 left in the third period allowed the Ducks to tie the game at 2 and force overtime. “We got one point. That is not enough, but we’ll take that. We’ll have a good practice tomorrow and go back to work on Sunday. We have to take it one game at a time.”
One positive is that it’s looking easier to blame the goaltending. Even with Saku Koivu’s groin injury keeping him out of the lineup a second straight day, the Ducks put 48 shots on Jose Theodore — two off their season high.
Is Dan Ellis an upgrade over Curtis McElhinney as a temporary starter? Obviously Bob Murray thought so before making the trade with Tampa on Thursday (and was rewarded today with a four-year contract extension). Clayton Stoner’s go-ahead goal with 4:57 left in the third period might disagree.
Ellis stopped 28 of 31 in his Ducks debut, a respectable .903 save percentage. He could hardly be blamed for John Madden’s first-period goal at the end of a 2-on-1 rush, but all three goals he allowed came on the rush with nobody standing between him and the shooter.
So why is being able to isolate the goaltending a positive again? Jonas Hiller is working his way back from what he’s been told is a case of vertigo, and that’s treatable. Hiller doesn’t even have to board a plane for a while; the Ducks are at home until March 9, play once in Denver, then come back to Southern California for their next four games.
In the meantime, all the Ducks really have to do is keep it close in the standings. That should be the plan, at least. Maybe this team can win without Hiller — it’s now 0-4-1 since Hiller last went on IR — but as Corey Perry said, “it’s a matter of finding those bounces again that we were getting early on when we were winning.”
A few more notes:
Beauchemin’s goal was his first as a Duck since Game 6 of the first-round playoff series between the Ducks and Sharks on April 27, 2008, and his first goal anywhere since Feb. 5. It came in his fourth game since arriving in Anaheim in the trade that sent Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner to Toronto.
Jason Blake had another strong game. He continues to crash the net, with or without the puck, and was rewarded with two assists this time. Ryan Getzlaf earned his second assist on Bobby Ryan’s goal in the second period, but he’s not making that no-look, behind-the-back pass if he doesn’t spot Blake standing in front of the net.
Ryan’s goal was the 100th of his NHL career. The 23-year-old is the fourth player from the 2005 draft class to reach the century mark, following Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar and Paul Stastny (in that order).
The Ducks really missed Koivu in the faceoff circle. Brandon McMillan went 4-12 on draws while logging a season-high 20:31.