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By Adam Brady
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Wild Night in Minny

Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 11:14 AM
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Ducks Off the Ice by Adam Brady
Wild Night in Minny

There's a puck in there somewhere.
While most of us are still recovering from the cardiac arrest of those last 30 seconds in Minnesota, it shouldn't overshadow what has become increasingly apparent about the Anaheim Ducks. Not only are they winning games, but they're finding ways to win games they almost certainly would have lost two months ago.

The latest case in point came last night in Minnesota, when space on the Xcel Energy Center rink was at a minimum and it seemed virtually impossible for the Ducks to get a puck past goalie Josh Harding. Maybe in October-November-December the Ducks might have taken a 1-0 loss and chalked it up to a goalie standing on his head. But not these Ducks.

Instead, a struggling Niklas Hagman managed to force in a gargantuan goal eight minutes into the third period, Corey Perry did what Corey Perry does another four minutes later, and Jonas Hiller did the rest of the work in helping the Ducks hang on by the lightest of threads in the final moments.

The Ducks were 0-21-1 when trailing after two periods going into that game. The Wild, meanwhile, were 16-1-3 when leading after two.

You can't possibly put a price on Hagman's goal and its impact on that game, as well as this marathon road trip for Anaheim. After being denied by Harding right in front, Hagman stayed with the puck and somehow got a stick on it to trickle it deliciously over the stripe as he was knocked down.

"He managed to get a piece of [the first shot]," said Hagman, who hadn't scored since Jan. 18 and had been dropped to the fourth line. "I tried to whack at it but I think one of their guys lifted my stick. I thought it wasn't even going to go in. Just barely went over the line. But that's what it takes."

And it seemed to electrify the previously frustrated Ducks, who got the go-ahead goal from Perry a few minutes later on the rush, a shot that Harding would probably like back. That goal continued the "Hart winners on heart's day" trend that we mentioned yesterday. The last 11 reigning Hart Trophy winners have scored 12 goals on Valentine's Day. (And not for nothing, but Perry is starting to heat up just like he did in the final months of that MVP season. Perry had 28 goals through 56 games last season. He has 27 through 56 this season.)

That goal gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead they held onto through the nail-biting, stomach-churning final moments. The Ducks missed two chances to fill an empty net with Minnesota skating with an extra attacker, and Hiller and the other five Ducks survived a flurry around their net. Here's a look:



While Hiller came up big, it was the Ducks defense that deserves a ton of credit, as they made sure their goalie only saw 17 shots all night. And with that win the Ducks -- who now have the best goal differential (+19) in the NHL since Jan. 1 -- continued to make their charge into the playoff race. They're eight points behind eighth-place Phoenix, six if they can turn around and win another big one in Pittsburgh tonight.

It won't be easy. While the Ducks are playing the second of a back-to-back, the Pens haven't been in action since Sunday. And they've won six in a row at home, the two-year-old Consol Energy Center the Ducks will be seeing for the first time. The Pens are gripping onto the fifth spot in the East, despite the absence of Sidney Crosby (concussion) since December 5. the Penguins have only lost twice in regulation in their last 14 games. The Ducks have only lost twice in regulation in their last 18.

Should be a good one, and you can check it out with other fans on a huge screen in a cool setting at the official watch party at UltraLuxe Cinemas in Anaheim.

 

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 35 22 8 5 101 96 49
2 CHI 33 22 9 2 102 67 46
3 STL 33 21 9 3 100 81 45
4 NSH 31 21 8 2 87 64 44
5 SJS 34 19 11 4 97 87 42
6 VAN 32 19 11 2 92 90 40
7 WPG 33 17 10 6 80 76 40
8 LAK 34 17 11 6 94 84 40
9 CGY 35 17 15 3 100 95 37
10 MIN 31 16 12 3 91 84 35
11 DAL 31 13 13 5 89 104 31
12 COL 32 11 13 8 83 100 30
13 ARI 32 11 17 4 74 104 26
14 EDM 33 7 20 6 69 110 20

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 34 12 25 7 37
R. Kesler 35 11 15 -2 26
S. Vatanen 35 9 15 -1 24
C. Perry 23 14 8 11 22
M. Beleskey 35 15 3 11 18
C. Fowler 34 3 14 1 17
J. Silfverberg 35 4 12 3 16
H. Lindholm 34 4 11 12 15
P. Maroon 27 2 12 -5 14
D. Smith-Pelly 31 4 8 3 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Gibson 2 2 0 .927 2.28
F. Andersen 18 5 4 .913 2.41

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