Thank goodness for Teemu Selanne.
The Finnish Flash, coming into the game having scored eight goals and 13 assists in his last 13 games against the Predators, added two more goals to that total including the game-winning power play goal. More importantly, the Ducks have put together a string of solidly-played games and actually got two points to show for it tonight.
Selanne’s first goal came on a first period power play. The Ducks had a two-man advantage when Ryan Getzlaf skated the puck from the point across the ice before dropping it off for Selanne. Selanne quickly shot low to Pekka Rinne’s glove side for the first goal of the game.
It would be the only one the Ducks needed, though they added three more. As nice of a play the first goal was, the next three were probably better. Selanne scored his second goal of the game off a beautiful pass from Saku Koivu. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Selanne skated the puck into the zone before dropping it off the Koivu. Selanne headed straight for the net as Koivu angled wide, then flicked a back hand pass to the wide-open Selanne who one-timed it past Rinne.
The third goal saw the Ducks return to the good old days of hard fore-checking. Less than two minutes later, on the same 4-on-4 situation, Todd Marchant came in hard on the fore-check, knocking his man down. Petteri Nokelainen intercepted the puck as it was rimmed around behind the net and brought it in front. Marchant skated straight to the net after putting the hit on and received a perfect pass from Nokelainen, then one-timed it past Rinne for the third goal of the game.
The final goal of the game came from the RPG line. Getzlaf got the puck into the zone before passing it off to Corey Perry on the left boards. Perry looked over his shoulder and snapped a hard back hand pass between the legs of a defender to Bobby Ryan, who was streaking down the middle all alone and one-timed the puck high.
But let’s not forget about the play of Jonas Hiller. Hiller earned his first shutout of the year while making a remarkable 40 saves and looking solid all night. Hiller has been criticized by some fans for giving up some bad goals, while others have said he’s been the team’s best player this season. All fans will agree that tonight’s performance was just what the Ducks needed to get into the win column.
The Ducks definitely didn’t play the same type of game they played against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. In post-game remarks, Selanne actually admitted he thought the team looked “flat” all night. Luckily for the Ducks, the Predators are not in the same class as the Stanley Cup Champs that were here two days ago.
Let’s be honest: the Ducks did not play one of the better teams in the league right now. Nashville is missing their best defenseman in Shea Weber and arguably their two best forwards in Martin Erat and J.P. Dumont. They’ll get no sympathy from the Ducks, however, who will take wins however they can.
But as Selanne said, the team looked flat. What that means is there was no emotion or physicality to speak of, except for the play Marchant made for the third goal of the game. Indeed, it was scored on play that would warm Coach Randy Carlyle’s heart as fore-checking was a big part of why it was scored.
Another large part was the special teams. The Ducks scored on the power play and did not give up any goals while killing penalties. It’s even more impressive considering the referees made quite a few very questionable calls, but were consistent the entire game. Nonetheless, the Ducks killed off all five chances and have not allowed a power play goal in the last two games.
Still, there is plenty of room for improvement. Hiller had to stop 40 shots, far too many to ask of any goaltender against any team. The Ducks actually did a very good job of blocking shots, particularly while killing penalties, and that makes Hiller’s performance that much more impressive. But the Ducks have made a habbit of allowing 35 shots or more per game and that will be one of the points of focus going forward.
The Ducks will now focus on the Phoenix Coyotes who will come to Honda Center on Saturday. Ironically, James Wisniewski’s suspension will end in time for him to play against the same team he earned it from. It will definitely be a more spirited game than tonight’s was as Shane Doan will look for some retribution and the Ducks will try to continue their good play.
To watch highlights of tonights game, click here.