Prior to the Anaheim Ducks' 2-0 loss to Buffalo on Wednesday, coach Bruce Boudreau spoke of the importance of reaching a tangible mark when fighting an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
"I think anytime you can see progress by jumping a team, getting closer, then it makes you hungrier for the next game," Boudreau said.
It was certainly true following Anaheim's 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames Friday night at Honda Center as the club leapt past Minnesota for 12th place in the conference. Though both teams have identical 28-27-10 records, the Ducks currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of having won fewer games in shootouts.
"It's huge," captain Ryan Getzlaf said about the team prevailing in a must-win situation. "This weekend's a big weekend for us as where we're going to sit come time for the stretch here. That's what we're excited about, and enjoy this one tonight, like I said, and we've got a big task tomorrow."
Speaking of tomorrow's Freeway Faceoff clash at Staples Center with the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 p.m. FOX Sports West), there's so much riding on the game for both teams, neither of which currently is in position for a playoff spot despite entering the year as Pacific Division contenders. Los Angeles is three points behind eighth-place Dallas with a game in hand, while Anaheim remained seven points behind the Stars, who won 3-1 in Edmonton on Friday.
Getzlaf's game-winner was blasted past Calgary rookie netminder Leland Irving off of a drop pass from Corey Perry, whose touches, positioning and play down low in the offensive zone was as efficient as it has been all season.
His first goal since a third period tally in a 3-2 win over Colorado on January 22, Getzlaf's 17-game goal scoring drought led to frustration that wasn't easy to perceive in post-game media scrums. Having averaged at least a point per game in four consecutive seasons entering 2011-12, this season's drop off to .69 points per game did not lead to any visible bouts with confidence or outward displays of frustration. If there was any soul-searching or skyward cries of aggravation, it was done out of the public's eye.
"It's not as frustrating as everybody thinks when you're not putting the puck in the net when your team's winning," Getzlaf explained, "cause that means we're doing other things really well, and players are still scoring and that kind of stuff."
"It was one of those things where we're winning, I'm kind of happy."
Also happy was Boudreau, who admitted that "in the last 10 minutes Jonas Hiller saved our bacon."
"It looks like he was so snakebit, so maybe this will open the door for him," Boudreau said of Getzlaf.
Considering how closely the playoff hopefuls are packed together this late in the season, and given the nature of the Kings-Ducks rivalry and Anaheim's superb 18-5-4 record since January 4, a win in downtown Los Angeles would be the exact type of shot of adrenaline needed for the season's final month, which will continue at home on Monday against Edmonton before shifting to the road for the following three games.
"It's a big win for our group, and we've got half the battle done this weekend," Getzlaf said. "Tonight's an emotional one."
"We've got to enjoy it right now and get ready for the next one."
NOTES: Flames forward Michael Cammalleri, on his team's loss: "It's a game we have to come out of with points. Not good enough. I don't really know what else to say. To give up a goal with 40 seconds left at that point we have to make sure no matter what, with the situation we're in and the situation Anaheim is in, that we get in to extra time to at least guarantee ourselves a point. And then really try and get the second one., Really, unacceptable with where we're sitting right now." Jonas Hiller made his 24th consecutive start, setting a club record. Both Guy Hebert and J.S. Giguere had started 23 straight. In his 24 starts, Hiller has gone 15-5-4 with a 1.85 GA and a .928 save percentage with two shutouts. The Ducks improved to 21-1-3 at home against Calgary since March 28, 1999. They've won 15 straight at home to the Flames, their longest win streak against one opponent at home in franchise history. Their last loss to Calgary came on January 19, 2004. Toni Lydman played in his 800th career game.