Ducks General Manager Bob Murray got many calls from his peers before the trade deadline asking if he'd be willing to deal Matt Beleskey, not because of any failing on the 26-year-old left wing's part but because of economics. Beleskey was having a career season — he finished with 22 goals — and he can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The price he can command might put him beyond the Ducks' budget.
Beleskey converted a rebound from the slot during a power play early in the third period to put the Ducks ahead of the Calgary Flames and establish their determination to gain a split of their two games at Scotiabank Saddledome. Patrick Maroon added an empty-net goal to seal the Ducks' 4-2 victory and vault them into position to advance to the Western Conference final with a win Sunday at Honda Center.
"We're going home to our home fans," Beleskey said after joining Teemu Selanne as the only Ducks who have scored in the first four games of a playoff series. "We've got to play like we did tonight. We've got to come out hitting, skating, execute on the power play, penalty kill, all that good stuff. I have no doubt this team will do it."
Beleskey has played a key role in getting them this far. Although he was held without a point during their first-round sweep of Winnipeg, he brought enough verve to grab the attention of Calgary Coach Bob Hartley. Now, even though he has brought the Flames to the brink of elimination, he has won Hartley's admiration.
"He's a great worker, and right now pucks are finding him. He's positioning himself very well in the slot," Hartley said. "He was a force against Winnipeg but not on the score sheet. Against us he's been on fire.
"He's a great worker, and I hate to say it, but he deserves it."
Beleskey has never shied away from hard work or contact.
"He's a player who gets the job done, and he's a guy that you want out there when you need things to happen, if it's a goal, if it's a hit, a fight," Cogliano said. "He's one of those players that are going to be a very hot commodity in this league, and he already is.
"Four goals in four straight games, that's tough to do in the playoffs. A lot of guys can't do that. With his shot he can do that, and he's a massive part of this team, and he's really come on at the right time."
Beleskey has usually played with Ryan Kesler in the middle and Jakob Silfverberg on the right, though Kyle Palmieri took some turns on the right side Friday. Out for a turn on the power play the Ducks gained when Calgary forward Joe Colborne foolishly high-sticked Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin and cut Beauchemin on the upper lip, Beleskey had a clear mission.
"We've got to take care of business when they take a penalty like that, at the end of a period and try and take liberties on Beauch," Beleskey said. "You've got to make them pay, and we did."
Beleskey did his part by rebounding a shot by Silfverberg. "Our power play has been working hard all year, and we'd been creating momentum all game," he said. "Silfver made that nice shot off the pads, and I was trying to get open in the slot, and I just fired it home."
His goal-scoring spree is something he couldn't explain. "I seem to score in bunches," he said.
That was fine with Beauchemin. "Hopefully, he's got 25 more bunches," the defenseman said.
None of this would have happened if Murray had made one of those trades pitched to him before the deadline. Beleskey is glad Murray didn't listen. This is where he wanted to be, with this team and in this situation.
"Oh yeah, I wanted to stay. I've always wanted to stay. I love it here in Anaheim. I've been a Duck my whole career, and hopefully I am next year," said Beleskey, a fourth-round draft pick in 2006.
"I didn't want to miss out on this, that's for sure. This is what I wanted, and it's paying off."
The even bigger payoff awaits him and the Ducks on Sunday.