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.
But tonight figures to go down as the night that M-V-P became more than just a loud exercise in wishful thinking.