Ducks 6, Nashville 3.

The Ducks played like a different team in Game 4 compared to Game 3. In part, they were.

Sheldon Brookbank, Kyle Palmieri and Brad Winchester came out of the lineup; and Andy Sutton, Andreas Lilja and Jarkko Ruutu went in — but the biggest difference in the 6-3 win seemed to be the Ducks’ resolve.

Goals by Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Brandon McMillan in the third period broke a 3-3 tie, and the series shifts back to Anaheim on Friday tied at two games apiece.

Goals by Cam Fowler and Saku Koivu staked the Ducks to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 5:14. Patric Hornqvist answered 34 seconds later for Nashville, and Joel Ward’s power-play goal at 5:44 of the second period tied the game at 2.

Teemu Selanne deflected a Getzlaf shot past Pekka Rinne with the Ducks on the power play at 11:41 of the second period to temporarily restore the one-goal lead. But Kevin Klein and Matt Halischuk caught the Anaheim defense napping, with Klein setting up Halischuk for the equalizer at 14:15.

A delay of game penalty to Nick Bonino with 31.5 seconds left in the second period carried over to the third period, and could have given the Predators the break they were looking for. Instead, Perry scored short-handed 1:17 into the third period to give the Ducks all the momentum they needed. Nashville put only three shots on Ray Emery (19 saves) in the entire third period.

The Ducks outshot Nashville 38-22 in the game, and Rinne wasn’t around to see the end of it. He was lifted for Anders Lindback after McMillan’s goal at 6:46 of the third period.

“We just felt that the way we played the other night, we needed a little bit more size on the back end,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We hadn’t played Sutton and Lilja in a while. We thought that some of our younger players — specifically Sbisa and Bonino … McMillan and Beleskey, those are all very young players — we just felt they would be more comfortable with a 6-foot-5 defenseman and another 6-foot-3, 220-pound defenseman on the back end.”

A few more notes and observations:
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Coyotes 5, Ducks 2.

Seeing Ilya Bryzgalov face the Ducks is no longer a novelty. Sunday marked the 22nd start for Bryz against the team that placed him on waivers in Nov. 2007. Statistically, the 30-year-old goalie has had better starts in Anaheim, but the Ducks have rarely looked so frustrated against their former backup goalie.

The biggest reason: Their own goaltending wasn’t so spectacular. Dan Ellis was off, allowing four goals on 21 shots over two periods before giving way to Ray Emery. Emery, making his first start since Feb. 1, 2010, played the entire third period and appeared to be on, stopping all nine shots he faced.

By then it was too late. The Coyotes (36-23-11, 83 points) denied any notions of another third-period comeback by the Ducks (37-37-5, 79 points), and gained a four-point cushion on their rivals with a 5-2 victory.

“They sat back and played a defensive-style game,” Ducks center Todd Marchant said of the third period. “They put the puck around the boards, around the rim quite a bit, chipped it by our defense. We had a tough time in the third sustaining any kind of forecheck. You can point your finger at Bryz. He played really well for them. We put 39 [actually 38] shots on net, a lot of them were point-blank opportunities, and he made some good saves. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a reality of the game.”
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Vancouver 3, Ducks 0.

The Canucks have that look about them.

Seeing as many (if not more) Canucks sweaters than Ducks sweaters in the stands at Honda Center is one thing — chalk that atmosphere up to a rare Saturday-Sunday Kings-Ducks doubleheader that allowed fans to come down from Vancouver for a weekend of hockey and (mostly) sunshine.

The best magic is taking place on the ice. The last two days have seen Vancouver beat the Kings and Ducks each at their own game. Sunday’s 3-0 win required only 16 shots on goal and a strong performance by backup goalie Cory Schneider. Following his first shutout of the season, Schneider has a better goals-against average (2.14 to 2.21) and save percentage (.928 to .925) than starter Roberto Luongo.

Two goals by third-line center Manny Malhotra off a pair of Ducks miscues, and a power-play goal by Daniel Sedin that went off Andreas Lilja’s stick, proved the Canucks are more than just a two-twin pony. They outmuscled the Kings in a 3-1 win Saturday. On Sunday they frustrated Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan into submission (Getzlaf put 11 shots on goal but converted none), and took their chances with everyone else while capitalizing on a couple mistakes by Lilja and Cam Fowler.

It’s a good strategy against a Ducks team that is still missing two-thirds of its second line. Jason Blake (hand) and Saku Koivu (groin) have now missed back-to-back games. The Ducks did well to gain two points against two teams ahead of them in the standings, Dallas and Detroit, in their last two games.

Stopping the Canucks right now seems to be getting harder with every game. Are they the best team the Ducks have seen this season?

“They’re definitely one of them,” Getzlaf said. “The standings will show you that before you get on the ice. It’s not a trick in this league to get to the top of the standings, it’s hard work and they’ve been doing it all year.”

A few more notes:
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Ducks 2, Senators 1, SO.

With the lousy season that the Senators are having – they’re equally close to the last Eastern Conference playoff spot and the worst record in the NHL – try saying with a straight face that a shootout was a desirable outcome Tuesday.

On the other hand, Ottawa was 0-6 in games that go beyond three periods. And with Jonas Hiller stopping nearly everything the Senators sent his way, the Ducks could say they planned it this way all along.

Bobby Ryan scored on the Ducks’ second shootout attempt, and Hiller stoned all three Ottawa shooters, to kick off the Ducks’ four-game road trip with a 2-1 win. Hiller also made 39 saves in a 65-minute game that saw Ottawa outshoot Anaheim 40-27.

Corey Perry scored the Ducks’ lone goal in regulation, his team-leading 24th of the season, at 14:30 of the first period. Perry was in the process of falling backwards when he somehow lifted a shot over the pads of goalie Brian Elliott (26 saves).

Milan Michalek created the Sens’ lone goal when he drew the attention of the Ducks’ defense into the middle of the slot, then somehow – from his rear end – put a backhand shot on Hiller. Mike Fisher snuck behind a distracted Ducks defense to poke the rebound past Hiller at 18:19 of the second period.

Elliott held up his end of the goalie duel in the third period, stoning Matt Beleskey on a breakaway for one of 12 saves to set the stage for overtime.

In the shootout, Elliott wilted at the forehand wrister of Ryan and Hiller stopped Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Henrik Karlsson to preserve the win. The Ducks have won eight of their last 10 with games in Toronto, Montreal and Columbus looming before the All-Star break.

A few more notes:
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Ducks 3, Edmonton 2.

What appeared to be cakewalk for the Ducks over the floundering Edmonton Oilers turned into a mess in a hurry Sunday at Honda Center.

Somehow, a pair of goals by Teemu Selanne – the first going for his 1,300th career point – and another by Luca Sbisa held up, with Curtis McElhinney and the Ducks’ shot-blockers doing the dirty work late.

“We were forced to probably perform some extra work that really wouldn’t
have been necessary,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said, “but we found a way to win the hockey game.”

Goals by Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner 26 seconds apart late in the second period slashed the Ducks’ 3-0 lead to 3-2. Anaheim was outshot 12-7 in the final period, and survived the final 3:12 short-handed. The Ducks also blocked 22 shots, led by Andreas’ Lilja’s five.

McElhinney was briefly relieved by Jonas Hiller in the second period after suffering a cut to his neck that required stitches. More on that, and the rest of the game, in tomorrow’s editions. here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:

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Ducks 7, St. Louis 4.

As much two games can be mirror images of one another, the Ducks and the St. Louis Blues certainly flipped roles in their second meeting of the season Wednesday.

Anaheim exacted revenge for a 5-1 loss in St. Louis on Oct. 11 – what seems like a long three months ago after they completed a 5-1 homestand with Wednesday’s win. Bobby Ryan notched his third career hat trick, his second of the season, and Jason Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, Corey Perry and Brandon McMillan also added goals for the Ducks.

“We’ve realized that on a homestand you really need to come out and put your best foot forward,” Ryan said. “The month of December was a little bit ugly. We’ve gone on streaks all year long. We need to come out at home, establish the forecheck and our identity.”

No one can speak to streaks better than Ryan, who has six goals in his last three games after scoring just one in the previous 10. All three of his goals came within spitting distance of the crease – and off fine primary assists from Joffrey Lupul, Perry and Andreas Lilja – which marked a significant evolution in Ryan’s transition from wing to center.

“It didn’t come as smoothly as we all liked, but we persevered and he has persevered,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “Hopefully that is just a springboard for him to continue on with the offensive threat that he is.”

In that Oct. 11 game, their third of the season, the Ducks were outshot 53-14 and Ryan collected 17 penalty minutes (and no goals). Call Wednesday’s outing a measuring-stick game – a measurement against the Ducks’ former selves.

Jonas Hiller got burned by lapses on defense and allowed four goals on 34 shots, seeing his shutout streak end at 178:34. The Ducks took advantage of an off-night for Ty Conklin, who stopped just 17 of 24.

A few more notes:

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Ducks 2, Chicago 1.

Jonas Hiller admitted to getting a little lucky at the end.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Hiller said after a memorable 39-save performance, including a perfect 19-save third period.

Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg did their best to thwart perfection, but were both victims of a great Honda Center Heist – Skille’s shot from a few feet out was gloved down at the goal line (it went to video review in Toronto; judge for yourself here), and Stalberg’s shot deflected off Hiller’s glove and over the net.

That was as close as Chicago came to tying the game after early goals by Andreas Lilja (his first as a Duck) and Corey Perry stood. That is, unless you consider the scary moment in the second period when Andy Sutton’s stick accidentally got through the goalie’s mask and clipped his eyebrow. “I’m glad nothing happened,” Hiller said in the understatement of the evening.

More details in tomorrow’s editions. A few more notes …
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Kings 4, Ducks 1.

The Ducks’ problems ran deeper than the rare four-day layoff – no games, no practices – from the time they were embarrassed in Buffalo on Tuesday to the time they were embarrassed in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The layoff couldn’t explain why the Ducks survived the first period but were walloped in the second, why the Kings knew where almost every Jonas Hiller rebound was going to end up, or why Corey Perry – the team’s leading scorer – chose to take himself out of the game for seven minutes of the third period with his team trailing 4-1.

“You expect after four days off that they will be rusty in some areas,” Randy Carlyle said, “but there was one area we were rusty in and that was competing.”

(I used that quote in the game story too and, while I don’t like to double up, a blunt Randy Carlyle cannot be quoted often enough.)

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Ducks 3, Boston 0.

Goalies are often the biggest proponents of false modesty after a shutout, crediting everyone but themselves for what is often a stellar individual performance.

Not to imply that Jonas Hiller wasn’t stellar in stopping all 45 shots he faced Monday night in Boston – but the Ducks would be rightly credited with one of their more balanced wins of the season.

They exorcised some first-period demons by taking a 1-0 lead on Brandon McMillan’s goal at 5:57 and not letting go. They took that early confidence boost for a spin on both ends of the ice, allowing Hiller to weather (and more importantly, see) the Bruins’ 45 shots, giving Anaheim two wins in four games of its five-game East Coast trip.

Andreas Lilja (paired with Cam Fowler) and Andy Sutton (paired with Luca Sbisa) both re-entered the lineup on defense and “both of those players played one of their best games of the year for us,” in the words of Randy Carlyle.

McMillan played probably his best game too, scoring when the rebound of Sbisa’s shot fell to his feet in front of Tim Thomas (22 saves), then leading the charge to the net that resulted in Corey Perry’s short-handed goal at 15:05 of the second period.

McMillan also was part of the rush that led to Lubomir Visnovsky’s second-period tally, giving the rookie a plus-3 rating and his first multiple-point game in the NHL.

“The kid has worked hard and he got an opportunity,” Carlyle said. ”I moved him out with [Saku] Koivu and [Teemu] Selanne to try and balance out three lines. Because, when you look at their three lines that they have, they got [Marc] Savard centering one line, they got [David] Krejci and then you got [Patrice] Bergeron. Those are three pretty good centers so offensively they can create a lot, so we had to try and match that up so we weren’t overwhelmed by any one line.”

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Carolina 4, Ducks 2.

Despite the return of Teemu Selanne, the Ducks couldn’t overcome a natural hat trick by Eric Staal in the game’s first 22 minutes en route to their second straight loss.

Ryan Getzlaf scored both goals for the Ducks, the latter coming during a 6-on-3 shift with 1:48 left in the third period. Saku Koivu nearly knotted the game at 3 less than a minute later, but Cam Ward made the biggest of his 43 saves when he miraculously gloved down Koivu’s 9-foot shot to preserve the Hurricanes’ one-goal lead.

Joe Corvo provided the final score by scoring into an empty net with six seconds left.

Staal scored twice on the power play, at 7:27 and 19:33, as Carolina scored on its first two power plays of the game. He completed the hat trick with an even-strength goal after some good passing in traffic at 1:41 of the second period.

While hats littered the ice, Randy Carlyle shuffled his forward lines and saw the Ducks respond with several scoring chances against Ward. Their 45 shots on goal were their second-most of the season and marked their highest total since Nov. 19 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Selanne, playing his first game back from a groin injury, led the way with eight shots on goal in 20 minutes of ice time. He switched places with Bobby Ryan, skating with Getzlaf and Corey Perry for the final two periods. Bobby Ryan finished the game on a line with Koivu and Joffrey Lupul; Todd Marchant skated with Nick Bonino and Brandon McMillan; Jason Blake skated with Kyle Chipchura and George Parros.

Paul Mara re-entered the Ducks’ lineup, and Andreas Lilja and Andy Sutton were both healthy scratches. Mara skated on a third pairing with Luca Sbisa.