Tuesday, 03.6.2012 / 7:34 AM PT
When a team is down, when they've hit a lull, when they're struggling to get things going, sometimes it just takes one big play to provide that spark and change everything.
And there is no better guy on the Anaheim Ducks to provide that igniting play than one Bobby Ryan.
He's done it time and again over highlight-filled career, and did it last night at Honda Center. The Ducks had come out of a second period in which they were outshot 22-8 by the Edmonton Oilers and were lucky to give up just one goal. The Oilers continued to have the ice leaning in their favor for the first eight minutes of the third (5-2 shot advantage), and then this happened:
We've seen this kind of thing from Ryan before: the spin-o-rama against the Kings, the cut to the net against the Stars, the thing of pure beauty against the Preds in the playoffs (the one we've seen a thousand times and still aren't sick of). Last night, a trip from behind from former teammate Ryan Whitney sent Ryan flying just as he backhanded the puck past a helpless Nikolai Khabibulin.
And while comparing this:
... to this
... may be a stretch (okay a big one), at least one other writer (and my dad) made the comparison, so I'm going with it. Of course, Bobby Orr's overtime goal to give the 1970 Bruins the Stanley Cup was much more dramatic in the scale of importance. But this one by another Bobby was pretty big for the Ducks in their desperate charge for a playoff spot. It led them to a 4-2 victory over the Oilers that pulled Anaheim to within five points of eighth.
The crowd reaction on Ryan's goal was one of the best parts, a gradually building roar that sounded like an approaching ocean wave as he sprinted up the wing, then a deafening "YEAH!!!" as he sent it off the twine, the noise lasting well after he jumped backward into the glass.
Meanwhile, Selanne's big assist on the play pulled him even with countryman and boyhood idol Jari Kurri for 19th on the NHL scoring list. After the goal, you could see Selanne handing the puck to a Ducks trainer for safekeeping. This one meant something to him.
"... I'm not really a numbers guy," he said, "but obviously any time I'm going to be tied or be at the same company as my childhood idol, it's a big thing."
And how much higher on that list can Teemu climb? Last night he was asked for the umpteenth time when he thinks his career might end. "It's like a box of chocolates," he said with a smile, "you never know."
Now while Ryan's goal gave the Ducks a lead in the third, it was the heroism of Corey Perry that sealed the deal. Perry scored twice in that decisive final period, the first coming off a Whitney turnover, as Niklas Hagman fed Perry for the little wrist shot. After Edmonton made things a little more tense with a goal on their first power play of the night, Perry slammed the door with a steal from Whitney and cruised to the empty net just as Khabibulin was heading to the bench for an extra skater.
And let's not forget the work of Jonas Hiller, who stopped 21 of those 22 Edmonton shots in that second period, and ensured things didn't get out of hand.
"He was all we had in the second period," Bruce Boudreau said. "Where it could have been 4-1 Edmonton, it ends up 1-1."
And it led to an important (heck, they're all important now) win for the Ducks, since they play three tough ones on the road. All three games -- St. Louis on Thursday, Dallas on Saturday and Colorado on Monday -- are against teams either in playoff position or fighting for it.
"We’re going into three pretty tough building here this week," Ryan said. "We have to find a way to come up with some points."
And who knows? Maybe Ryan himself will be the guy providing the spark for some of those points.