By Adam Brady (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ANAHEIM – Though their postseason hopes and standings positions are miles apart, the Ducks were better than the St. Louis Blues for at least one night.
Anaheim got goals from three guys under the age of 23 and one 38-year-old in downing the NHL-best Blues in front of an appreciative crowd at Honda Center. Cam Fowler (20), Nick Bonino (23), Devante Smith-Pelly (19) each had tying goals, and Jason Blake (38) had the game-winner with just under six minutes left in regulation to give Anaheim its fifth straight home win over the Blues.
The Blues came into the game tops in the NHL with 100 standings points, having become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot last Saturday. They also boasted a 37-0-1 record when scoring three goals or more, a mark spoiled by the 12th-place Ducks as they became the first team to score four goals on goalie Jaroslav Halak since Columbus on December 18.
"They are the best team in the league for a reason," Blake said. "They compete and have been great all year. "We’re just trying to win hockey games. It doesn’t matter the situation we are in. It was a good effort tonight. It was a slow start in the first. I thought after that we did a great job."
Anaheim took its first lead of the game with 5:54 left, as Blake sent the puck on net from the right corner toward Teemu Selanne, and it deflected off the back of defenseman Ian Cole’s skate and into the net. The Ducks were able to hold on over the final minutes, thanks in part to the work of Jonas Hiller (35 saves).
"I knew 'T' was going and I just threw it," Blake said. "Fortunately, it went off their defenseman’s foot or leg, whatever it was."
Smith-Pelly’s goal in the third period off a pretty Ryan Getzlaf feed was the third time in the game the Ducks fell behind by a goal and ultimately wiped out the St. Louis lead. David Perron had put the Blues in front 5:47 into the third with a diving punch-in just as a Kyle Palmieri penalty had expired.
But the Ducks got even two minutes later when Getzlaf made a perfect backhand pass from behind the net to Smith-Pelly, who chipped it in from just outside the crease.
"[Getzlaf] made an unbelievable play, breaking up a play in our zone," Smith-Pelly said. "He then went down and made a nice move on the forward there. All I have to do is really put my stick on the ice and he’s going to find me. That’s pretty much how the play developed."
Smith-Pelly skated on the top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry and scored his second goal in the last three games.
"I’m more comfortable every minute I’m out there with them," Smith-Pelly said. "I just go in, create space and they’re going to make plays. It’s a pretty good feeling playing with two guys as good as those two."
St. Louis scored the game’s first goal seven minutes into the first when rookie Jaden Schwartz notched his second goal in his second career game (on his second career shot to boot). Hiller kicked away an Alex Pietrangelo slap shot, but Schwartz picked up the rebound and scored from the slot.
Anaheim tied it midway through the period on the power play when Getzlaf touch-passed the puck between his legs to Fowler, who slapped it past Halak glove side. After going 45 games without a goal, it was the second in four games for the sophomore Fowler.
St. Louis went back in front when David Backes picked up a loose puck and sent a shot from the left wing circle in off the inside of the far post.
It wasn’t until six minutes into the second period the Ducks caught up again, as Bonino picked up Palmieri’s deflected one-timer, waited out Halak and slung it just under the crossbar.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said he told his team during the first intermission, "if you’re going to play like this with a day off, then you won't have any more days off. It was pretty simple. It looked like we were in mud. We were looking in awe of the St. Louis Blues because they are No. 1 in the league.
"We tell ourselves that we can compete with everybody and anybody, and we have. Whether we’ve won or lost, there have been very few times where we haven’t been able to compete. So we just said, we have to get back to what we’re doing."
It was the second straight win for the Ducks, who see another stalwart, the defending champion Bruins here at Honda Center on Sunday.
"I don’t think at any point we’ve just thrown in the towel," Boudreau said. "It’s the same as the season. We were dead and buried in December and January. We’re still not eliminated yet. We are just going to keep playing as hard as we can and hopefully win the last seven games."
Anaheim is 22-10-5 in its last 37 contests overall. In addition, the club has gone 14-4-1 in its last 19 at Honda Center.
Making his 68th start (and appearance) of 2011-12, Jonas Hiller has now matched Guy Hebert’s record for most starts in a season (1999-00). In addition, Hiller is just one game from matching Hebert’s record for appearances in a season (69, 1998-99). Hiller leads the NHL in both appearances and starts in 2011-12.
In the last 33 contests, Hiller has gone 18-10-5, stopping 824-of-889 shots for a .927 SV% and 1.95 GAA (65 GA/1999 MIN). He started a franchise-record 32 consecutive games from Jan. 12-Mar. 18, the longest streak in the NHL since Antti Niemi (SJ) started 34 consecutive games from Jan. 15-Apr. 4, 2011.
Ryan Getzlaf extended his assist streak to five games (0-7=7) with two assists tonight. The assist streak is tied for the longest active assist streak in the NHL (also NSH’s Martin Erat)
Bobby Ryan has earned 4-7=11 points in the last 11 games (assist tonight).
Nick Bonino has earned 1-3=4 points in his last two contests.
Kyle Palmieri has points in consecutive games (1-2=3) and has collected 3-2=5 points in the last five contests.
Devante Smith-Pelly has scored two goals in the last three games (2-0=2).
Scoring his second goal in four games tonight, Cam Fowler has notched 2-3=5 points in the last six contests.
With the second assist on Smith-Pelly’s game-tying goal, Corey Perry has now earned 12-4=16 points over his last 19 games (missed two contests with an upper body injury from Mar. 12-14).
With an assist on Jason Blake’s GWG, Sheldon Brookbank has picked up 0-3=3 assists in his last five games and has earned 3-7=10 points in the last 26 games.
Tonight’s attendance was 14,494.
20:00 - END OF GAME - Ducks win it, 4-3, as St. Louis loses its first game of the year when it scores 3+. Wow.
19:55 - Beauchemin rims it around behind the net all the way to the other end as the seconds wind down to zero.
19:20 - Halak to the bench now.
19:00 - Blues keeping Halak in net for now.
17:34 - Blues ice it with 2:26 left. Ducks looking to slam the door.
14:06 - ANAHEIM GOAL - JASON BLAKE - From deep in the corner, Blake sends the puck in front toward Selanne, and it hits off the back of Ian Cole's skate and gets past Halak. It's 4-3 Ducks.
13:26 - Hiller with a HUGE kick stop on Oshie after letting a rebound trickle in front of him.
13:00 - Ryan gets flipped on his rear by Shattenkirk, but no call.
11:24 - ANA Penalty - Saku Koivu 2 min. high sticking and STL Penalty - David Backes, 2 min. cross checking. Koivu tries to follow up a shot in front and gets drilled from behind by Pietrangelo. He retaliates, then Backes jumps into the fray and takes a penalty along with Koivu.
11:05 - Blues don't like how aggressive Perry went after that puck, then went stomping through the crease, and they start something with him in front of their bench. Halak got a shot in on Perry in front of the net. No penalties called and Perry is hot on the Ducks bench.
10:55 - Perry just misses jamming the puck in from just outside the right post.
Average age of the Ducks goal-scorers tonight: 20.
7:50 - ANAHEIM GOAL - DEVANTE SMITH-PELLY - Getzlaf skates with the puck toward the back of the St. Louis net, making a perfect backhand pass to Smith-Pelly, who chips it in from just outside the crease. Big fist pumps from DSP and Getzlaf and we're tied 3-3.
7:20 - Backes guides the puck with his skate off the post and it's killed underneath Hiller. That might have been a kick-in even if it had gone.
7:15 - Hiller with another kick save and the Ducks just escape from the Blues punching in the loose one.
St. Louis is 37-0-1 when they score 3+ goals.
5:47 - ST. LOUIS GOAL- DAVID PERRON - Just as the power play ends, the Ducks penalty killers are gassed as Hiller kicks away a Shattenkirk shot and Perron dives to punch in the rebound. It's 3-2.
3:47 - ANA Penalty - Kyle Palmieri, 2 min. cross checking. Palmieri doesn't like Oshie's hit on Koivu, so he retaliates.
1:50 - Ducks having trouble finding the space to shoot on the power play, until Visnovsky slaps a shot into Halak's glove.
0:25 - STL Penalty - Carlo Colaiacovo, 2 min. slashing. Perry takes a slash on the hand from Colaiacovo, then gets nailed into the glass by him.
0:00 - Off and running in the third.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Bonino gets the only goal of the period and we're tied 2-2.
18:00 - Hagman goes hard to the net, but Halak refuses.
16:00 - Beauchemin loses Berglund momentarily, but Hiller kicks away the shorthanded bid.
15:35 - Perry feeds Selanne in the slot, and his snap shot is kicked away.
15:10 - STL Penalty - Jamie Langenbrunner, 2 min. high sticking. Jamie gets Ryan from behind at the red line.
14:35 - Ducks running around a bit, but Hiller saving them.
11:03 - Deflected puck goes flying into the bench and almost gets .. Kent French.
9:40 - Hiller snags a Langenbrunner shot out of the sky. He had a lot of room in the circle. Huge save.
7:58 - ANA Penalty - Teemu Selanne, 2 min. holding.
6:03 - ANAHEIM GOAL - NICK BONINO - Seconds after the power play is over, Palmieri's one-timer is deflected, but it's picked up in front of the net by Bonino, who nicely waits out Halak before flinging it top shelf. Pretty goal and it's 2-2.
Between Langenbrunner, Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo and Colaiacovo, the Blues lead the NHL in points ... and syllables.
3:53 - STL Penalty - Jamie Langenbrunner, 2 min. roughing. Langenbrunner with a forearm to Brookbank's chin. That'll get you some time in the box.
3:30 - One shot for Anaheim in the first 3 1/2. None for St. Louis.
0:00 - Here we go in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Ducks trail it 2-1 and were outshot 15-5.
18:35 - Brookbank's slap shot is tipped downward by Beleskey and bounces off the ice into Halak, who never saw it.
Kiss Cam turns into Oblivious Cam as a dude's gal doesn't realize their supposed to kiss, and has a mouthful of nachos when he lays one on her.
16:00 - Guenin banged up and comes off the ice in some pain. He's about halfway down the tunnel right now, but slowly heading back to the bench. He's being treated for a cut above the eye. He'll probably not miss a shift. I love hockey.
12:22 - ST. LOUIS GOAL - DAVID BACKES - The puck is pried loose from a crowd along the wall and pops out to Backes, who sends a shot from the left wing circle off the inside of the far post and in. Hiller was screened a bit by Beauchemin. It's 2-1 Blues.
10:28 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - CAM FOWLER - Ryan sends the puck up top to Getzlaf, who taps it between his legs and behind his back to Fowler. He catches and fires a slap shot that beats Halak on the glove side. Fowler goes 45 games without a goal and now has two in the last four. Ducks get even, 1-1.
9:27 - STL Penalty - Chris Porter, 2 min. hooking. First PP for Anaheim.
9:20 - Hiller gloves a Colaiacovo try. (And let's hope that's the last time I have to type that name tonight.)
Jaden Schwartz is an interesting story. Sister Mandi played for Yale and succumbed to cancer last year.
7:00 - ST. LOUIS GOAL - JADEN SCHWARTZ - Hiller nicely kicks away a Pietrangelo rocket, but the rebound bounces out to Schwartz who picks it up and scores it from the slot. Schwartz with his second goal in his second career game (his second career shot even). It's 1-0 Blues.
5:35 - Beleskey looks to the punch in right in front, but he's denied by Halak.
3:24 - Guenin with a slap shot into Halak's mitt.
2:01 - A couple early shots on Hiller that he shoos away.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center.
Parros and Pelley are healthy scratches, while Lydman is out again with an upper body injury. Hiller is back in there after getting a night off Monday in San Jose. Halak gets the start for the Blues, as expected.