ANAHEIM, Calif. It might not have thrilled the other 13 playoff-hungry teams in the Western Conference, but the Anaheim Ducks' 3-2 shootout win over the Calgary Flames Monday night went a ways towards exorcizing the shootout demons that haven't exactly graced the team with a superfluous amount of points in recent history.
In the club's first Honda Center shootout since a similar 3-2 win over Calgary on December 10, 2010, Jonas Hiller stopped six of eight shooters and Niklas Hagman buried the game-winner past Mikka Kiprusoff in the eighth round as the Ducks extended their uphill climb towards the Stanley Cup playoffs. Hagman was denied as a member of the Flames in the previous Honda Center shootout last season.
"It's a goalie that I've practiced a lot against, quite a bit," Hagman said about facing Kiprusoff, a fellow teammate in Calgary and with the Finnish national team. "I don't have that many moves. He knows my go-to moves. I try to switch it up a little bit. I wanted to come with good speed, and I wanted to shoot it. Luckily for me, he probably thought that I'm going to go with my backhand."
With his game-winner, Hagman denied Kiprusoff's first attempt at earning the 300th win of his career.
"Too bad I had to ruin it," Hagman said. "He's a world class goalie and he gives a team a chance to win every night."
The Ducks take to home ice once more, a Wednesday home tilt with Carolina, before heading out on the season's longest road trip, a two-week, eight-game marathon that begins in Detroit on Friday and ends in Raleigh, N.C. on Thursday, February 23. They'll travel to Columbus, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Newark, Sunrise, Fla. and Tampa in between.
There already seems to be a mission on this upcoming trip, per Bruce Boudreau: narrow the gap.
"Whether it's home or road, the biggest thing to me is getting into that 50 point thing," Boudreau explained. "When you're in the 40's, and the other teams are in the 50's, or even at 60, it seems so distant. But when you get into the 50-point range, you see a light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn't seem as far, whether it's just perception or not. So you get into that 50-point, and then all of a sudden there's 14 teams bunched in between 50 and 60, and it seems really a realistic thing to catch."
"And that's what we want to do. Get into the 50-point thing. Go on the road L.A.'s in the middle of it, Detroit's just finished it it's a grueling schedule. We've got to do it."
After Monday's action, Anaheim sat 10 points behind eighth place Minnesota with 48 points and a 20-24-8 record. There are four teams between the Ducks and Wild, though Anaheim did itself a favor by picking up a pair of points against a team that they're battling with for that eighth playoff spot, even if Calgary earned a point in the shootout loss.
"I'd rather give up one and gain two," Boudreau said.
When asked after the game whether the team looks back at missed opportunities during their woeful November and December stretch, Bobby Ryan gave an honest assessment.
"I have, yeah, but you're really trying not to. I think at this point it's all about moving forward and just letting the past be the past," Ryan said. "I think if we fall short at the end of the year, then we would really reflect on it. But right now, we're coming to the rink ready to play every night. Hiller continues to be good, our line starts to get on a role, you know, we're getting contributions from the second and third line."
"I think we can do a lot of damage."
NOTES: Former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Head Coach and current Calgary Flames Associate Coach Craig Hartsburg spoke to the media instead of Head Coach Brent Sutter after the game. "I thin kthe game itself was a little bit of a rollercoaster," Hartsburg said. "I thought we had a good first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of the first period weren't very good at all. We had to kill some key penalties in the second and battle back to get a point. So obviously we had some chances, especially in the shootout. Three or four times we had a chance to win it, but we didn't. You get to the point and you've got to move on, move forward." Anaheim extended its home winning streak against Calgary to 14 games. The Ducks last lost at home to the Flames on January 19, 2004. Anaheim has points in 24 of 26 overall against Calgary, going 21-2-3 since March 28, 1999. The Ducks are 10-2-2 in their last 14 games and have outscored their opponents 30-19 in their last 10, going 7-2-1. Boudreau, on Jonas Hiller: "He was great, but he's been great for a month and a half."