The Ducks prevailed in a matchup of big, physical teams built around brawn and skill, squeezing a goal out of their slumbering power play and clamping down in the third period well enough to fend off the St. Louis Blues.
Matt Beleskey continued his career season by scoring his 16th goal, taking a pass from Sami Vatanen and putting several slick moves on future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, before whipping the puck to Brodeur's far side with 9:05 left in the third period for the decisive goal in the Ducks' 4-3 victory at Honda Center. The Ducks padded their league-leading point total to 56 while the Blues lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.
"We find a way," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said after his team's 19th one-goal victory this season. "Sometimes it doesn't look like we deserve it, but we find a way to win."
They found their way on Friday in part because they had some scoring depth in the first game this season they didn't have a forward on the injured list. Winger Kyle Palmieri, activated hours earlier, chipped in with a goal to help the Ducks (25-9-6) erase the memory of their New Year's Eve stinker, a 3-0 home loss to the Sharks.
"It's good that we battled back after the San Jose loss," said Vatanen, who contributed two assists but also put the Ducks two men down with an errant clearing pass that cost them a delay-of-game penalty in the second period.
"It's a big win always when you play your conference teams. You try to win because it's like a four-point game."
Vatanen's penalty, at 15:39 of the middle period, was the last one taken by the Ducks. "You take five penalties in the first two periods, it really screws up the line combinations and the ice times and everything else," Boudreau said. "By not taking them we were able to do what we wanted to do as far as match and roll."
Center Ryan Getzlaf, honored by the NHL as its No. 1 star for his league-leading 20 points in December, stayed hot in January. He swatted home the rebound of a long shot by Vatanen for his 13th goal this season and the Ducks' first power-play goal in eight games, ending an 0-for-21 drought. But the Blues matched that at 2:59 of the second period. David Backes sent the puck into the corner, where it was pursued by Alex Steen. He took a backhander that was saved by Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, but T.J. Oshie scored on the rebound.
The Ducks regained the lead at 5:20, on a fine play by Ryan Kesler. Though he had been knocked down, he managed to get the puck on goal, where Palmieri redirected it past Brodeur for his sixth goal of the season.
The Blues came back to pull even at 6:23, a goal made possible when Jori Lehtera forced Clayton Stoner into turning the puck over. Kevin Shattenkirk finished things off with a short wrist shot while unchecked in the slot. But the Ducks responded quickly. Nate Thompson won a puck battle with Barret Jackman behind the Blues' net and backhanded the puck to Andrew Cogliano, who lifted a shot over Brodeur from the near edge of the right circle at 10:11. That was merely the second goal in 19 games for the hard-working but unlucky Cogliano, who has left dents in posts in many NHL rinks this season.
But St. Louis tied it yet again, this time during a five-on-three advantage. Palmieri was serving a tripping penalty and Vatanen had been penalized for delay of game when Steen ripped a one-timer from the right circle at 14:27.
Beleskey scored the winner on a smart play by Vatanen, who corralled a loose puck in the neutral zone and fed Beleskey, who went in on a two-on-one with Kesler.
"It was just one of those chances," Beleskey said. "He stopped me a few times early in the game, and I was lucky I got that one through."
Lucky or good, it was a big lift for a team that continues to find ways to claw out wins.
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen