Ducks 4, Dallas 3, OT.

The two points were necessary, but not sufficient, to tide the Ducks over until the end of the regular season.

The confidence they gained by winning in overtime for the second straight game might be.

“We want to use this as a confidence boost for us – and the Detroit game,” Teemu Selanne said after the latest OT thriller. “It was a good sign. Hopefully we can keep rolling. This is what we need now because everyone’s playing well.”

None were better Friday than Lubomir Visnovsky, who recorded the first hat trick by a defenseman in franchise history. He capped the trick (pun intended) with the game-winning goal on a booming slapshot past Kari Lehtonen with 3.6 seconds left in overtime. Visnovsky also had an assist on Selanne’s game-tying goal with 1:03 left in regulation.

Visnovsky’s 51 points rank third among all NHL defensemen and his 12 goals now rank fifth among league blueliners, but he had been slumping — just one goal in his last 18 games prior to Friday. And he knew it.

“Last month was not very well for me,” he said. “After the All-Star break, it was a couple tough games. I needed to wake up. This is the best wake-up for me.”

Visnovsky’s second career hat trick came against the same Dallas Stars team he torched for his first, back on Nov. 2, 2005 as a member of the Kings.

The rest of the game had its share of ups and downs for the Ducks. In short, the second period was down, and the other 45 minutes were up. Dan Ellis hung tough to make 23 saves, including a biggie on the breakaway against Trevor Daley with 1:29 left in overtime.

More in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:
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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 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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Friday’s game story.

The blogs are back up and running, a great way to ring in 2011, and I’ll take advantage of this space to give you the full version of yesterday’s game story. Only a partial version made it online:

The Ducks will begin the new year the same way they ended the last – without their captain and star center, Ryan Getzlaf.

Turns out that’s not the end of the world.

The Ducks took advantage of a tired Philadelphia Flyers squad for a 5-2 win Friday before an announced crowd of 17,103 at Honda Center. Jason Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky scored two goals apiece and Bobby Ryan added another, each of them ending a notable scoring drought.

“He’s irreplaceable,” Blake said of Getzlaf. “He’s our captain, he’s our leader, not only on the ice but in the locker room. So I mean, you can’t replace a guy like that. Guys obviously have to give a little bit more … it was a good team effort.”

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Ducks 5, Flyers 2.

Jason Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky had two goals apiece, and Bobby Ryan added another to lift the Ducks to a 5-2 win in their first game since Ryan Getzlaf’s potentially serious injury.

Ryan centered a top line with left wing Matt Beleskey and right wing Corey Perry. Other than that, the lineup looked mostly the same, with the Masterton Line of Blake (two goals), Teemu Selanne (two assists) and Saku Koivu (two assists) coming up the biggest. Defenseman Toni Lydman also had two assists for the Ducks, including a precision
pass to spring Blake on a breakaway for his first goal of the game.

Jonas Hiller made 35 saves and stood tall after Jeff Carter’s goal brought the Flyers within 3-2 at 3:30 of the third period.

Visnovsky’s goal, with 3:10 left in the game, gave him 100 for his career and completed the scoring.

The Ducks blocked 14 shots, including four by Andy Sutton and three by Visnovsky. Cam Fowler blocked another late that appeared to injure the 19-year-old defenseman, but Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said that Fowler was OK after the game.

More details in tomorrow’s editions.

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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Bonino doing everything except scoring.

You don’t need to remind Nick Bonino about his stat line.

How closely does he track it?

“Pretty closely,” the 22-year-old center said Saturday. “It’s frustrating not having a point.”

For a man with no goals and no assists, it’s almost a surprise that Bonino has been a fixture on the so-called “kid line” in Anaheim. The kids on the wing have changed frequently, but the center position has been locked up since Bonino was recalled from the American Hockey League in early November. He’s only been scratched once in 20 games, averaging 9:42 in ice time per contest.

Only one player in the entire NHL – Kings defenseman Matt Greene – has played in more games than Bonino without picking up a goal or an assist. Among forwards, only new York Islanders tough guy Trevor Gillies has played as many games without a point.

The reason Randy Carlyle keeps penciling in Bonino is simple.
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Vancouver 5, Ducks 4.

Curtis McElhinney’s misfortune was just the opening the Vancouver Canucks needed.

In the midst of a stellar performance, McElhinney was knocked out when he was struck in the head by Christian Ehrhoff’s shot in the third period. Adding insult to injury, Daniel Sedin scored when the puck bounced right to him off McElhinney’s mask, Ryan Kesler scored on Jonas Hiller in the final minute to tie the game at 4, and Jeff Tambellini potted the game-winner in the shootout.

The surprising turn of events left the Ducks with a tough shootout loss in a game they led 4-2 with eight minutes left in the third period. It also left them without their backup goaltender, at least temporarily, heading into Friday’s game in Anaheim against the Calgary Flames.

McElhinney stopped 24 of 27 and was in line for his third win of the season after goals by Corey Perry, Joffrey Lupul, Teemu Selanne and Cam Fowler.

Kesler’s third-effort goal, with Vancouver skating 6-on-5 with 22 seconds left in the third period, was the only goal Hiller allowed on 13 shots in 12:18 of relief. Tambellini scored the only goal for either side in the shootout.

Lupul’s goal was his first of the season in his third game back. It came one year to the day after his last NHL goal on Dec. 8, 2009, in what proved to be Lupul’s last game of the season.

Todd Marchant had a pair of assists, and Selanne, Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Lubomir Visnovsky and Paul Mara had one helper each.
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Selanne eyes return Monday, and other notes.

Teemu Selanne was in a jovial mood Sunday, which usually isn’t news. But with a groin injury keeping the right wing out of the last three games, it was a welcome sight inside Honda Center. The Ducks host the Kings on Monday night in the first meeting between the Southern California rivals this season, and Selanne wants to be on the ice.

“You know what, I’m counting myself in,” he said emphatically.

Selanne traveled with the team to Glendale for Saturday’s game against the Coyotes and took part in the pregame warm-up, then decided against playing. “I was really tight, so I discussed with our trainer, and decided it’s not worth that risk,” he said. “I’d rather miss one more.”

The 40-year-old, who is always ready with a numerical estimate of his health, said the groin was at 70 percent Friday, up to 83 percent Saturday and 90 percent on Sunday. “Tomorrow I’m expecting 95 and that’s good enough,” he said.

“I had this like three or four years ago, so I knew exactly what kind of injury we were talking about,” Selanne added. “If I played one more shift I would probably pull it bad. By saying that, the schedule we have was too much for me. But I hope I’m going to feel better tomorrow, because I really don’t want this to be any bigger problem than it is right now.”

Lubomir Visnovsky wasn’t as confident he would return from the back spasms that kept him out of Saturday’s game.

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Ducks 6, Phoenix 3.

The only certainty at the moment in the Pacific Division is that you can’t be certain about anything in the Pacific Division.

All five teams are separated by two points, thanks to the Ducks’ 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. Losers of six straight, the Ducks ended the Coyotes’ seven-game winning streak by scoring five straight goals to erase a 3-1 deficit.

Bobby Ryan scored three of the five for his first hat trick of the season. Corey Perry scored one and Brandon McMillan had another, the first goal of his NHL career, off a precision pass by Ryan Getzlaf from behind the Coyotes’ net.

Jason Blake scored in the first period against Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who had allowed six goals in his past four games but doubled that total Saturday. “Bryz” fell to 9-7-2 against the Ducks in his career.
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