ANAHEIM – With captain Ryan Getzlaf missing a third straight game with a leg injury, the Anaheim Ducks needed someone to pick up the scoring load in his absence. Little did they know it would be a player who wasn’t even in the league three weeks ago.
Veteran winger Radek Dvorak, signed by the Ducks out of the Swiss league on March 24, had two goals – one in the first and the game-winner in the third – to lead Anaheim to a 2-1 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oilers. Jonas Hiller had 27 saves for the Ducks, the only smudge on his resume being a Nick Schultz goal early in the third period.
It was Anaheim’s fourth win in five game and inched them even closer to clinching a postseason berth as they hold firmly on the second-place spot in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Anaheim's lead in the Pacific Division climbed to 11 points over the rival Kings, who the Ducks beat last night in a shootout. The loss put Edmonton four points back of the eighth spot in the West with nine games to go.
"The most important thing is we got two points tonight, playing against a team like Edmonton," Dvorak said. "We knew they would be coming hard. They have a lot of talent on that team, desperate for points. We were expecting a lot of pressure and I think we handled it really well."
Dvorak netted the eventual game-winner 7:48 into the third period, after Daniel Winnik spun and fired a shot from the top of the circle that caromed hard off goalie Devan Dubnyk, and Dvorak was there to punch it home. It was the third goal in his five games with the Ducks this season.
"It was a [great performance] by our line," Dvorak said. "I just happened to be in a good spot. We were putting pucks on net and [Dubnyk] was leaving nice big rebounds. I was just in the right spot at the right time and had an open net a couple of times."
Tonight's game carried some buzz as the first one against the Ducks for Edmonton rookie defenseman Justin Schultz. The 22-year-old Schultz was selected by Anaheim in the second round of the 2008 draft, but he opted to take advantage of a loophole and become a free agent rather than sign with the Ducks. Schultz was booed by the home fans every time he touched the puck, seemingly louder in the latter half of the game than in its opening moments.
And it was poetic justice for Ducks fans as Schultz’s last-second desperation shot from the point was blocked by Winnik as time expired, allowing Anaheim to hang on for the slim victory.
The only goal of the first 40 minutes was Dvorak’s with 2:39 left in the first period. A Ben Lovejoy shot from the right wing kicked off the chest of Dubnyk and Dvorak scooped it up and backhanded it into a wide open net.
The Ducks, who trailed the Oilers in shots 11-2 with 8:40 left in the first period, went on a stretch in which they outshot them 20-0, but couldn’t get anything to find the net.
Edmonton ultimately tied the game 1:12 into the third period when the other Schultz, defenseman Nick, took a shot from near the left wing wall that was misjudged by a standing Hiller and somehow got over his shoulder.
But that was all Hiller and the Ducks defense would allow on the night, as they outshot Edmonton 38-28 for the game, and got the clincher later in the period from Dvorak.
"I think [Ducks executives] Rick [Patterson] and Bob [Murray] did a great job finding that guy at the last moment," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, "and adding experience and depth to our roster, where he can come in a play and make it almost a difficult decision on a nightly basis to put 12 guys in."
Anaheim has a chance to clinch a postseason berth (if they don’t do it before then) when they face Colorado at Honda Center two nights from now.
"It’s satisfying, but it’s not the result," Boudreau said of the Ducks clinching. "I remember hearing some people say at the beginning, ‘Let’s have a good year and we can maybe make the playoffs if we work hard.’ But from day one, I’ve always believed that if you don’t shoot for the moon, you won’t get there. You’ve got to put the bar as high as you can as try to achieve those goals. The first goal was to make the playoffs, and then the second goal and then there’s the third goal and onward."
NOTE: Boudreau scratched defenseman Sheldon Souray after Souray was banged up a bit Sunday night vs. LA.
Anaheim’s 27-8-5 record (59 points) this season ranks second in the NHL behind only Chicago (62). This is the club’s second-best mark through 40 games in club history (28-6-6, 62 points in 2006-07). The club leads the Pacific Division by 11 points with eight games remaining on its regular season schedule.
The club has gone 5-1-1 in its last seven contests and 12-5-2 in its last 19.
In addition, the Ducks’ 16-5-0 record (32 points) at Honda Center in 2012-13 is the club’s second-best mark through 21 home contests (15-2-4 for 34 points through 21 in 2006-07).
Over his last three starts (2-0-1), Jonas Hiller has stopped 68-of-72 shots for a .944 SV% and 1.30 GAA (4 GA/184 MIN). He has allowed two-or-fewer goals in 11 of his last 12 appearances. In those 12 appearances, he has gone 7-2-2 (one ND) for a .932 SV% (273-of-293) and 1.70 GAA (20 GA/705 MIN).
Tonight marked Radek Dvorak’s 20th career multi-goal game and first since Oct. 14, 2010 with Florida at Calgary (2-0=2). He has scored three goals (3-0=3) in his last three contests.
Tonight concluded Anaheim’s fourth set of back-to-back contests at HOME this season and 10th set in franchise history. In those 20 games overall, the Ducks have gone 13-7-0 and have won eight of the last 11 (8-3-0).
Dating back to Mar. 31, 2009, Anaheim has posted a 12-2-0 record over the last 14 games vs. the Oilers.
Collecting two assists this evening (sixth multi-point game of the season), Saku Koivu has picked up 0-4=4 points in the last four games. His 8-19=27 points on the season rank fourth on the Ducks.
Tonight’s attendance was 15,148.
20:00 - END OF GAME - Ducks win it, 2-1.
19:58 - Winnik blocks a Schultz shot from the point as time expires.
19:54 - Koivu retrieves the puck and ices it with 5.9 left. Draw in the Anaheim end. Ducks take their timeout.
19:30 - Winnik blocks a pass into the stands and Edmonton takes its timeout with 29.7 left.
18:50 - Dubnyk to the bench.
18:35 - Perry looks to end it with a one-timer, but Dubnyk keeps Edmoton in it.
17:30 - Hiller with a shoulder save on a tough shot to face.
16:18 - TV timeout with 3:42 left and the Ducks clinging to a 2-1 lead.
13:30 - Sbisa put a lick on Hall to get a rise out of the crowd that just got done booing Schultz again.
11:48 - ANA Penalty - Andrew Cogliano, 2 min. tripping. Cogliano trips an Oiler in the corner. Not sure which Oiler. Not sure it matters.
7:48 - ANAHEIM GOAL - RADEK DVORAK - Ducks get back in front when Winnik spins and fires a shot from the top of the circle that rebound hard off Dubnyk to Dvorak, who punches past the diving goalie. Ducks lead it 2-1.
3:39 - Hall with a move around Sbisa and then backhand into Hiller before barrelling into him.
3:00 - Dubnyk is quietly playing a heck of a game, stopping Koivu and Winnik within seconds of each other.
1:12 - EDMONTON GOAL - NICK SCHULTZ - The other Schultz scores a surprising goal, taking the bank off the left wing wall and firing on net, somehow getting it between Hiller's right shoulder and the crossbar. Not ideal. We're tied.
0:00 - Ducks cling to a one-goal lead as we start the third.
20:00 - Nothing doing for either side that period, and we're tied 1-0 going into the third. Ducks outshoot the Oil 13-3.
19:15 - Ducks get it in deep a couple times, but not deep enough.
17:15 - EDM Penalty - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 2 min. tripping. Cogliano zigs, zags and holds the puck in the corner near the Edmonton net, ultimately earning the tripping call.
16:50 - Schultz gets booed coming up the ice, then cheered when he loses the puck to Winnik.
16:00 - Beauchemin with a sliding takeaway as the puck is cleared to the other end. How do you not love that guy?
15:24 - ANA Penalty - Luca Sbisa, 2 min. hooking. Sbisa gets into Eberle around the net. Chance for Edmonton.
14:20 - Nice last-second block of a Nugent-Hopkins shot by Sbisa on the rush.
13:20 - Steckel with a nice feed to Perry, who's stopped by Dubnyk in the slot.
12:00 - Schultz still getting booed when he touches it. The puck, I mean.
9:25 - EDM Penalty - Mark Fistric, 2 min. tripping. Call him Fistrip, as he takes Selanne down to the ice.
8:36 - During a battle in front, Dubnyk conveniently knocks his own net off its supports with his back, just as Beauchemin fires a wide open one-timer that Dubnyk never saw. No penalty.
4:30 - Ducks have outshot Edmonton 20-0 since the middle of the first.
2:00 - Ducks with a few chances around the net, but all they get out of it is fan "Awwwww"s.
0:40 - Selanne with a nice drop pass to Perry, who is robbed with the leather by Dubnyk.
0:00 - Ducks start the second on the PP.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Not the best-played period in the world, but the Ducks come out of it with a 1-0 lead. Ducks once trailed in shots 9-0 and now lead it 15-11.
20:00 - EDM Penalty - Ladislav Smid, 2 min. roughing. Smid gets a little aggressive at the horn. That'll give the Ducks a power play to start the second. They'll take it.
19:50 - Ryan gets the helmet knocked off again, this time as he drives the net. No call as the Ducks power play runs out.
17:58 - EDM Penalty - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 2 min. interference. First real PP for ANA.The last one was just a few seconds.
17:21 - ANAHEIM GOAL - RADEK DVORAK - Ducks get on the board when a Lovejoy shot off Dubnyk leaves a fat rebound, and Dvorak scoops it up and backhands it into the wide open net. Little fist-pump uppercut by Dvorak and it's 1-0.
16:15 - Ryan takes a high stick to the helmet behind the net and there's no call. Been happening to Anaheim a lot lately.
15:18 - Crowd still booing every time Schultz touches it.
13:29 - Beleskey whips a shot into Dubnyk from right wing and Dvorak can't sweep in the rebound.
12:00 - Hall pretty much everywhere so far tonight.
9:55 - Petry gets ahead of Ryan on the rush and feeds Hall, but his one-timer is wide.
8:11 - EDM Penalty - Jordan Eberle, 2 min. interference. Oilers cancel out the penalty almost immediately as Eberle takes out Koivu on the draw.
8:09 - ANA Penalty - Matt Beleskey, 2 min. boarding. Beleskey throw an Oiler into the wall and gets caught.
5:47 - Hiller squeezes the pads on a Smid (former Duck) point shot.
2:00 - Schultz getting a smattering of boos when he touches the puck.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center.
Getzlaf out for the third straight game. Hiller in net fo rthe first time this month.
Starters in bold/italics.
TAYLOR HALL (A)
SHAWN HORCOFF (C)
JORDAN EBERLE (A)
TEEMU SELANNE (A)
COREY PERRY (A)
SAKU KOIVU (A)
1 - 0 ANA
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 ANA