Wild 3, Ducks 2, OT.

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:
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Minneosta 5, Ducks 1.

The Ducks’ momentum officially took a turn for the worse Friday.

If the excuse of a back-and-forth game against a high-scoring Washington Capitals squad served as an excuse in Wednesday’s 7-6 loss in Anaheim, it was tougher to justify a 5-1 loss on the road to Minnesota. Corey Perry deflected a Bobby Ryan shot past Niklas Backstrom 3:30 into the game, but the Wild answered with five straight – including two on the power play and one short-handed – to ice the game.

Curtis McElhinney stopped 21 of 26 shots and looked no less vulnerable Friday than he did two days earlier. He allowed goals on consecutive shots by Eric Nystrom and Kyle Brodziak 27 seconds apart in the second period, making it a 4-1 game, and prompting Randy Carlyle to call timeout. Carlyle allowed his goalie to stay in, but one has to figure that the leash on McElhinney is a bit shorter now. Timo Pielmeier served as the backup for the second straight game, and he might well be the starter tomorrow night when the Ducks visit St. Louis.

Former Duck Matt Cullen, Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu also scored for Minnesota. Koivu scored at 5:01 of the first period, then blocked an Andy Sutton shot at 7:09 and didn’t return. But the Ducks (32-23-4) couldn’t take advantage of a Wild squad (31-22-5) missing its best player.

The back-to-back losses mean the Ducks are still stuck in the same 68-point logjam at the bottom of the tight Western Conference playoff picture.

A few more notes:
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Ducks lose a wild one, trade Mara to Montreal.

Alex Semin’s third goal of the game, with 1:47 left in the third period, sent the Ducks to a wild 7-6 loss to the Washington Capitals at Honda Center.

Easily lost in the 13-goal outburst was the fact that the Ducks squandered a golden opportunity to take over first place in the Pacific Division.

The Dallas Stars suffered their second loss in as many days, 4-2 to the Calgary Flames, creating a five-way logjam in the Western Conference standings. The Ducks (32-22-4) are mired in the middle with the fourth through eighth-place teams all tied at 68 points. The entire Pacific Division is separated by two points, from first-place Phoenix (30-19-9, 69 points) to fifth-place Los Angeles (32-22-3, 67 points).

Just easily overlooked was the postgame announcement of a trade.
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Ducks 4, Edmonton 0.

So much for the concept of a “trap game.”

The rebuilding Edmonton Oilers banished any notions of upsetting the Ducks, who were coming off quality wins in Vancouver and Calgary, by sending a meager 12 shots toward Jonas Hiller — a new record for the fewest shots by an Anaheim opponent in a shutout win.

Bobby Ryan scored twice and Brandon McMillan and Teemu Selanne tallied goals as the Ducks completed a sweep of their four-game Northwest Division road trip. Their sixth straight road win is the longest active streak in the league and one shy of a franchise record.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf had a pair of assists, on both of Ryan’s goals. All of Anaheim’s top three lines figured into the scoring. Ryan’s second goal of the game, at 1:31 of the third period, chased Edmonton starter Devan Dubnyk (15 shots-11 saves).

The Washington Capitals pay a rare visit to Honda Center on Wednesday. By then, the Ducks could be playing for sole possession of first place in the division. Anaheim (32-21-4) and Dallas (31-19-6) both have 68 points, most in the Pacific, but Dallas currently holds the top spot by virtue of having played one fewer game. The Stars are in the midst of a 1-6 slump and visit Edmonton on Tuesday, when they will make up the game in hand.

A few more notes, courtesy of the Ducks’ PR staff:
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Ducks 4, Vancouver 3.

Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks didn’t ease into anything in Vancouver.

The captain played 21:45 in his first game since Dec. 28, and the Ducks used a big lead to help hold off the Canucks. Getzlaf’s only point was this beautiful assist on Bobby Ryan’s first goal of the game, which gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead at 4:12 of the second period.

He also made an impact on Dan Hamhuis, planting the defenseman dangerously into the end boards on this shoulder-on-shoulder check. There’s already a debate raging over whether or not it was a clean hit.

Ryan had two goals, Jason Blake and Brandon McMillan had the others, and Curtis McElhinney made 16 of his 36 saves in the final period.

A few more notes:
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San Jose 4, Ducks 3.

The first 11 minutes, 15 seconds of hockey at Honda Center rendered the next 48:45 moot. Almost.

At least, it made for fairly easy writing on deadline. Seeing Jonas Hiller allow three goals in that early span, before heading to the bench, was a rare sight. Just as rare were the nature of the goals – each a little less excusable than the one before. Hiller said he didn’t see Jason Demers’ shot from just inside the blue line until it was in the back of the net. A few seconds later, Hiller was on the bench, and the Western Conference standings were guaranteed to be a gnarled mess.

The Sharks (27-19-6) and Ducks (28-21-4) each have 60 points now, cosmetically tied for fifth place in the standings but San Jose has the advantage of having one game in hand. Clearly, playing the Phoenix Coyotes the night before was a tremendous advantage, as the Sharks’ quick start was too much for Hiller and the Ducks.

“I think when they scored on the first shift it should have been a wake-up call,” said Bobby Ryan, who had one of the Ducks’ three goals. “We let them build off it. I don’t think you can discredit Jonas. He stood in there and some of the goals were tough to see, especially the third one. You don’t see it much.”

Cam Fowler and Joffrey Lupul also scored goals, with Lupul netting his first since Dec. 28. Curtis McElhinney made 17 saves – 10 more than Hiller – allowing only a power-play putback by Ryane Clowe at 15:39 of the second period.

More details in tomorrow’s editions. A few more notes:
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Ducks 4, Montreal 3, SO.

Saku Koivu’s first game back in Montreal began with a heart-warming, name-chanting tribute – and nearly ended in heartbreak.

The longtime captain of the Canadiens could only sit and watch from the penalty box as Max Pacioretty jammed a rebound past Jonas Hiller with 12.6 seconds left in the third period to tie the game at 3.

But for the second time in three games, Bobby Ryan saved the day. Using the same forehand move on Carey Price that he used four days earlier to win a game in Ottawa, Ryan scored the only goal of the shootout, and Jonas Hiller stopped all three Canadiens attempts on the other end, to give the Ducks the win.

Cam Fowler and Corey Perry scored power-play goals in regulation, and Ryan scored at even strength, to give Anaheim (27-20-4) a 3-1 lead heading into the third period. Goals by Pacioretty – his second of the game – and Mathieu Darche allowed the Habs to tie the game in a third period that saw them outshoot the Ducks 23-5.

Hiller, who made 37 saves, was his usual outstanding self in a head-to-head matchup with Price. By getting the win, Hiller matched Price for the NHL lead with 24 wins.

With one stop left (Tuesday in Columbus) on a four-game road trip, the Ducks have collected four of a possible six points to move into a tie with Nashville for fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

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 1, Sharks 0.

They were exhorting Bobby Ryan to shoot from every section of Honda Center except for two – sections 408 and 409, which were occupied by enough teal-clad Sharks fans to have filled six buses on a round-trip tour to and from San Jose.

Ryan dangled the puck on his stick from the left wall, through the left faceoff circle, through the slot, and through the right circle, before he finally released a shot at 14:29 of the second period. It was worth the wait for Ryan and for the fans (except those sitting in sections 408 and 409). The wrist shot sneaked through a scrum including Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, Ducks forwards Joffrey Lupul and Brandon McMillan, and of course goalie Antti Niemi, for the only goal on Sunday.

“Their defenseman (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) made a good play and followed me,” Ryan said. “I kept trying to wait for him to stop and he never did. So I finally hit the brakes. There was so much traffic in front, Lupul and McMillan were creating a stir, so I just tried to put it through the traffic. They haven’t found holes in the past month. I’m glad they are finding them right now and I’ll try to continue to do it.”

Ryan has scored four goals in the last five games, all in the absence of injured center Ryan Getzlaf. Before that he had gone seven games without a goal. Ryan’s 18th goal of the season puts him three behind Corey Perry for the team lead.

It also spoiled an otherwise perfect night for Niemi, who had the unfortunate task of being opposed by Jonas Hiller, who recorded his second shutout in as many games.

Plenty more on him in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:
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Scouting the Sharks.

The Sharks and Ducks meet Sunday for the third time this season, under circumstances very different from any this season or last.

Anaheim has gone 4-1 in its last five games to pull season-high four games over .500. San Jose (21-15-5) has lost two straight, four of six, and just got a tongue-lashing from GM Doug Wilson.

More interesting than how each team is playing is how each team got to this point. Since the teams last met on Nov. 9, rookie forward Logan Couture has 13 goals and eight assists in 29 games to become the Sharks’ leading goal-scorer. They have six forwards (and one defenseman, Dan Boyle) entering play Saturday with at least 27 points – something no other NHL team can claim.

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