The only thing clinched at Honda Center on Wednesday was Corey Perry’s Hart Trophy bid. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The Ducks’ surprisingly lopsided win over the Sharks did not ensure a playoff berth but was still badly needed. The Chicago Blackhawks temporarily moved into seventh place in the Western Conference standings with an overtime win against St. Louis. Calgary briefly matched the Ducks at 93 points in the standings with its win over Edmonton, putting further pressure on Anaheim to win its game in hand on the Flames.
The Sharks had been steamrolling everyone, but gently applied the brakes Wednesday after locking up the Pacific Division title two days earlier.
Gritty forward Ryane Clowe took the night off. Top players like Patrick Marleau (15:50), Dany Heatley (14:39), Joe Thornton (11:12) and Logan Couture (14:15) didn’t get top-player minutes. Backup goalie Antero Niittymaki got his first start in nearly three months — Jan. 13 was his last — and the Ducks took full advantage.
Perry completed his third hat trick this season (also the third of his career) in the game’s first 31 minutes, causing a mass litter of headgear on the Honda Center ice and pausing the Ducks’ onslaught at 4-1. The last of the three goals, a Perry-patented, long-armed flick of the wrist through traffic, made him the league’s first 50-goal scorer.
Teemu Selanne and Jason Blake added goals later in the period, and rookie defenseman Cam Fowler got his 10th of the season in the first stanza.
But tonight figures to go down as the night that M-V-P became more than just a loud exercise in wishful thinking.
“To do it front of your own fans, and I had family in town for the game, it’s nice to get that done,” Perry said of his 50th goal. “I thought 40 (goals) might be a stretch and then all of a sudden they kept coming. I have to give a lot of credit to the guys I’m playing with. They definitely helped me.
“Fifty is a huge number. Everybody talks about it. Not a whole lot of people get to do that and be in that category. It hasn’t really sunk in. I don’t think it will until it’s all said and done when the summertime comes. It’s an exciting number and hopefully there is more to come.”
Perry is the only NHL player with 50 goals, and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos would need to score six in his final two games this season to join him. Jarome Iginla is third with 42.
Perry is the third player in franchise history to reach the 50-goal mark (Paul Kariya had 50 goals in 1995-96 and Selanne had 51 goals in 1996-97 and 52 in 1997-98). Selanne’s 52 are the team record.
“If this guy doesn’t win the MVP, it’s a crime,” said Selanne, who for the record lost out to Jaromir Jagr in the Hart voting in 1998. “The way this guy is carrying our team right now is unbelievable.”
Iginla is the last Western Conference player to score 50 goals in a season (50 in 2007-08) and Selanne is the last Duck to score as many as Perry’s 97 points in a season (107 in ’97-98).
Back to the standings: The Ducks’ magic number is two, meaning they can clinch a playoff berth with any combination of two points gained by Anaheim or lost by Dallas, which plays the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. The Ducks would also clinch with any combination of four points gained by Anaheim or lost by Chicago.
A few more notes:
The Ducks were 4-for-6 on the power play tonight. Over the last five games, the club has gone 9-for-23 with the man advantage for a 39.1 percent success rate. The club’s 25.8 percent success rate at home on the power play ranks second in the NHL.
Perry’s hat trick was the seventh hat trick scored by a Duck this season — also Ryan (2), Selanne (1) and Visnovsky (1) — marking the most scored in one season in franchise history.
With an assist tonight, Lubomir Visnovsky matched his career high in points (18-49=67). He continues to lead all NHL defensemen in scoring and points-per-game (.85).
With a power play goal tonight (1-1=2), Teemu Selanne matched Mario Lemieux for sixth in all-time power play goals (236). In addition, Selanne matched Denis Savard and Dave Andreychuk for 27th in all-time points (635-703=1,338). He also now ranks tied for 48th in all-time points with Jeremy Roenick. Selanne’s 78 points on the season rank ninth in the NHL and his 16 PPG rank third behind Daniel Sedin (18) and Stamkos (17).
Ryan Getzlaf collected four assists tonight (0-4=4) with a plus-3 rating, bringing his season total to 56 assists (19-56=75), which is tied for fourth in the NHL with Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg.