Ducks 2, Detroit 1, OT.

Bobby Ryan’s overtime penalty-shot goal — the first OT goal and penalty-shot attempt of his NHL career — lifted the Ducks to a much-needed win. It also lifted the crowd of 15,098 at Honda Center, which might not see another game this good until the playoffs.

Other than Ryan’s goal, defense and goaltending were the story Wednesday. Dan Ellis (28 saves) and Jimmy Howard (26) put on quite a show.

So did the Anaheim penalty-killers, who allowed one goal (and just five shots on net) in nine power-play shifts for the Wings. That included a 1:33 stretch of 5-on-3 play in the first period, and a 1:47 stretch of 4-on-3 play to begin overtime.

Todd Marchant (17:48, 16-10 on faceoffs, three hits) did the yeoman’s work. His ice time probably was going to increase after Saku Koivu (groin) ruled himself out of a fourth straight game. Then the Ducks kept taking penalties, his teammates started struggling in the faceoff circle, and all of a sudden the savvy veteran had to pull more than his own weight in a playoff-type atmosphere.

Jason Blake also scored for the Ducks, on a rising 37-foot slapshot early in the third period that Howard probably didn’t see. Ryan’s goal was his 30th, giving him 30 goals in each of his first three NHL seasons. The Ducks couldn’t have picked anyone better to take the penalty shot, as Ryan went to his trusty forehand to beat Howard glove-side.

“Bobby Ryan is a great player and has a great set of hands on him,” Howard said. “It was a good deke. He capitalized on it.”

More notes in tomorrow’s editions. A few notes that won’t make the paper:
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Ducks 3, Avalanche 2.

One second remained on the clock in a 3-2 game, a perfect time for divine intervention.

“All of a sudden the puck came out of nowhere and hit me on the side of the head,” Ducks goalie Dan Ellis said. “I heard it hit a post. I was just praying that it hit the right post. Thank God it stayed out.”

Indeed, in a game the Ducks had to win, Milan Hejduk’s late shot off the post might have been the turning point. Should Anaheim reach the playoffs, it will be a moment to remember. So too will Todd Marchant’s first goal of the season, Brandon McMillan’s game-winner, and Erik Johnson’s bone-headed giveaway that led to Ryan Getzlaf’s goal in the first period.

Often, the rest wasn’t pretty. Ellis finished with 22 saves but he was outplayed by his counterpart for the second time in as many games as a Duck. Peter Budaj made 11 of his 29 saves on the power play and could hardly be blamed for the Avs’ 13th loss in their last 14 games.

The Ducks snapped a five-game losing streak and won for the first time without injured goalie Jonas Hiller since Curtis McElhinney backstopped a 5-4 overtime win in Calgary. They remained one point behind the 72-point cutoff for the eighth and final playoff spot.

With the Ducks on the power play at 11:23 of the third period, McMillan broke a 2-2 tie, scoring on a putback after Budaj came out aggressively after allowing a rebound to the right of the net.

The rookie center was only out on the power play because Saku Koivu missed his third straight game with a groin injury. Yet he, Bobby Ryan and Jason Blake (and defensemen Luca Sbisa and Francois Beauchemin) turned it into a minute-long cycle play that wore down the Colorado PK with Brandon Yip serving a double-minor for high-sticking Beauchemin.

Considering the Ducks were outshot 23-19 at even strength –and only had one power-play goal to show for their previous six games –it was a badly needed goal.

“We found a way to score a big power play goal to win us the hockey game,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “That is what you have to do. You have to find ways to get points at this time of the year. Hopefully this is a springboard for our hockey club to get back to playing the way we are quite capable of playing.”

Marchant’s goal ended a streak of 70 games without a goal. The goal, the 186th of his career, came at the end of a give-and-go with Sbisa. The defenseman jumped up in the rush and backhanded the puck to Marchant, streaking down the slot; Marchant needed only get a sliver of stick on the puck to re-direct it past Budaj.

“It’s certainly the longest drought of my career,” Marchant said. “I’m not sure what it was prior to this, but it wasn’t anywhere near this. I didn’t let it get me down mentally. I know I’ve got many other roles on this team besides scoring goals. The bottom line is it’s about wins this time of the year. It’s not about how many goals or assists I get. It’s about winning hockey games, getting into the playoffs and see how far it takes you.”

A few more notes:
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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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Ray Emery on making it back (almost).

The Ducks hope Ray Emery doesn’t have to back up his words with actions. Not yet, at least.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I was ready to contribute,” Emery said Thursday, following his first NHL practice in more than a year. “If I get a chance, I’m going to try to make the most of it, try to do my best.”

Earlier in the morning, general manager Bob Murray said that Emery would ideally get his next game action in a Syracuse Crunch uniform.

Emery made three starts for the Crunch, going 2-1-0 with 2.62 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, after the Ducks signed him to a two-way contract last week. On Wednesday, he was back on an NHL bench as the back-up to Curtis McElhinney against the Kings. Reading into the situation, Emery will probably back up Dan Ellis tomorrow against the Minnesota Wild.

“I think we have to stick to the game plan with him,” Murray said. “He’s here now, he’s getting shots, he’s getting NHL shooters right now. He’s (working) with (goaltending consultant) Pete Peeters. He’s going to be here, obviously, until Jonas (Hiller) comes back. He’s got to play more games. Hopefully at the end of all this, we have three strong goaltenders that are ready to make a run.”
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Ducks ship McElhinney to Tampa for Dan Ellis.

As the Ducks’ goaltending world turns, Curtis McElhinney is out and Dan Ellis is in.

The straight-up swap with the Tampa Bay Lightning was completed in the early hours Thursday. Ellis was scheduled to arrive tonight and be ready to play Friday against the Minnesota Wild.

The trade means a couple things for the Ducks. One, that the team thinks Ray Emery isn’t ready for NHL games and two, that McElhinney isn’t ready to be a starter indefinitely – at least, as long as Jonas Hiller is dealing with the brain issues that he’s been told are a result of vertigo.

“We just felt that we needed some more experience going down the stretch,” general manager Bob Murray said. “We gave Curtis a chance to pay last night, and we thought he played OK last night. Going forward with the uncertainty with Jonas at the moment, we felt we needed more experience. Dan has had experience being a number one, and playing in the playoffs.”
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