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.
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.
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.
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.
Saku Koivu’s faceoff win led to a Lubomir Visnovsky goal with 32.6 seconds left in overtime, lifting the Ducks to their fourth straight win.
Jason Blake and Corey Perry also scored for the Ducks, who were outshot 41-20 and leaned on a 39-save effort from Jonas HIller.
Torrey Mitchell scored 1:42 into the opening period to draw first blood. With the Sharks down 2-1, Devin Setoguchi tied the game on a one-timer seconds after a Toni Lydman penalty expired as two Ducks (Corey Perry and Andreas Lilja) were skating without their sticks.
Antero Niittymaki made 18 saves for the Sharks, who were playing without Joe Thornton while their captain served the final game of a two-game suspension.
Shameless plug: If you’re by a radio, tune in to “Duck Calls” With Josh Brewster on AM-830 – I’ll be coming on the show after Ducks defenseman Andy Sutton, around 11 p.m.
It was a recipe for disaster. Their second game in as many nights, facing a much better opponent than the first – on the road, no less – and the Ducks the followed the recipe.
The Sharks broke out to a 5-0 lead that no amount of fights could curtail (there were six, for the record) and no third-period bounce-back could overcome. The shots on goal count was just as lopsided – 38-11 through two periods, and 41-24 the game.
All of which led Randy Carlyle to say, “we didn’t really seem to get involved in the game.
“From our standpoint, you can’t come into this building and expect them not to be coming out and jumping at you,” the coach continued. “I mean we did play last night. This is the second half of a back-to-back. But we got ourselves out of position and got into lots of trouble.”
Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist as the Ducks skated to a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center for their first win of the preseason.
Skating a more veteran lineup than in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Ducks were buoyed by the presence of several regulars. Jonas Hiller started in goal and stopped all 19 shots he faced in 32 minutes. Corey Perry also scored a goal and the line of he, Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey (two assists) combined for five points.
Aaron Voros, Danny Syvret and Jason Blake also scored for the Ducks. Timo Pielmeier finished in goal, stopping 19 of 21.
Cam Fowler, the 12th overall pick in the June draft, assisted on Syvret’s second-period power play tally for his second assist in as many games.
The Ducks won despite being outshot 40-18 but otherwise held the edge on the stat sheet. Luca Sbisa (3) had as many blocked shots as the entire San Jose team and had five hits.
The Sharks, in their first game of the preseason, failed to score on eight power-play opportunities, while the Ducks went 2-for-3.
Between the Ducks’ morning skate and the media Game Notes, here’s how it looks like the forwards will skate against the Sharks:
Aaron Voros was also at the morning skate but wasn’t listed in the game notes. Since Voros played last night, we’re guessing that he’ll be the only forward scratched if everyone else is healthy.
The defense pairs were harder to figure out (or I just need better glasses), but those on the ice today included Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa, Brett Festerling, Sheldon Brookbank, Andy Sutton and Brendan Mikkelson. Danny Syvret was also on the ice, but wasn’t listed in the Game Notes, so count him as the likely scratch. Timo Pielmeier and Jonas Hiller were the goalies.
Bobby Ryan took his first turn at center this preseason, and Emerson Etem and Cam Fowler made their debuts against NHL competition — which might be the main reasons for the 12,382 in attendance at Honda Center to hold on to their ticket stubs from this night.
Ryan scored the Ducks’ lone goal midway through the second period, giving Fowler his first assist on an NHL scoresheet. Phoenix dominated otherwise, outshooting the Ducks 40-21 and killing off eight of nine power plays. Former Duck Andrew Ebbett, Kyle Turris, Brett MacLean and Viktor Tikhonov did the damage for the Coyotes, with Curtis McElhinney (22 shots/20 saves) and J.P. Levasseur (20 shots/18 saves) splitting the bill evenly.
Ryan won just one of his first 8 faceoffs and finished 8 for 20 in the circle. A Ducks power play that had just three days to coalesce didn’t fare much better than a penalty kill that allowed two goals in five man-advantage shifts for the Coyotes.
The Sharks invade Honda Center tomorrow night. The San Mercury News reports that Antero Niittymaki is likely to start between the pipes. No word from this end on who Randy Carlyle will trot out.
It may end up being a case of “too little, too late” for the Ducks, but beating the two best teams in the Western Conference in back-to-back games at least serves as a reminder of their potential.
Three days after beating the conference-leading San Jose Sharks, they handed the second-place Chicago Blackhawks a 4-2 loss minus their best player, Ryan Getzlaf, who missed the game with inflammation in his left ankle.
Ryan Carter filled Getzlaf’s spot and won a faceoff that led directly to the game’s first goal, by Bobby Ryan at 4:08 of the first period.
Todd Marchant and Saku Koivu also scored, and Ryan added an empty netter in the final minute – his 30th and 31st goals of the season coming on his 23rd birthday. Jonas Hiller withstood a 41-shot barrage for the victory. Corey Perry added two assists.
With 13 games remaining, the Ducks trail the Detroit Red Wings by eight points for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.