A demanding road challenge against the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators was one thing.
Subtracting team points leader Ryan Getzlaf because of an injury in pregame warmups made the Ducks' challenge Thursday night even more imposing.
Instead of slumping shoulders against a team that had the best home record in the NHL (20-2-1 at Bridgestone Coliseum, including eight wins in a row), Anaheim produced perhaps its proudest performance of the season in a 5-2 victory.
Forward Jakob Silfverberg scored two goals, Matt Beleskey notched his 20th of the season and goalie Frederik Andersen made 44 saves to tie Nashville's Pekka Rinne for most wins (29) in the league. The Ducks' victory left them with a league-best 74 points, two ahead of the Predators and St. Louis Blues.
“When you lose your best player, it makes everyone else respond. Their senses heighten,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Getzlaf skated before the game, but a trainer told Boudreau afterward that the league MVP candidate with 52 points aggravated a lower body injury and was unable to go.
Boudreau left the impression afterward that Getzlaf will be out for Friday's game at Washington, and will be reviewed before the team's Sunday game at Tampa Bay.
The Ducks do not have to specify the nature of Getzlaf's injury because of an NHL policy that prevents the release of such information.
“I knew we were up for the game, but [Getzlaf's injury] was something that threw everyone: ‘You're playing with this guy. You're playing with that guy,'” Boudreau said. “Then, all of a sudden on the bench, they're asking, ‘What's my line again?'”
Anaheim committed a hooking penalty 1 minute 52 seconds into the game, but Silfverberg answered with a short-handed goal.
Rinne, playing for the first time since suffering a sprained knee Jan. 13, was slow to clear a loose puck in front of him.
Silfverberg beat him to it, then flipped the puck backhanded to the high corner at the 3:08 mark.
“You always want to strike early, and we knew he had been out a couple weeks,” Silfverberg said. “I saw an opportunity. It turned out good.”
Sami Vatanen's goal at 13:08 made it 2-0.
The Ducks (34-12-6) squandered a pair of two-man advantages early in the second period, but countered the home fans' anticipated momentum change.
Ducks center Rickard Rakell shifted to another line, drew traffic on a rush, then dished to Beleskey, who scored for a 3-0 lead 3:51 into the second period.
“We were going into that game with totally different lines anyway. Guys can blend in with each other on this team,” Beleskey said.
Just 43 seconds later, Silfverberg deflected a shot that squeezed between Rinne and the post to his right.
“You want to say skill, but when you tip the puck and score, there's a little bit of luck too,” Silfverberg said. “Felt good to get two. Tough building to play in. But we've proven it before,” through a rash of first-half injuries and illness, “that guys can step up. We managed to do it again.”
Rinne started the game second in the NHL in both goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.931).
Andersen, meanwhile, blanked the Predators (33-12-6) until center Colin Wilson rebounded a shot from Victor Bartley that bounced off Andersen's left leg pad early in the third period.
“Nice to win against a good team,” Andersen said. “It's how it is on the road sometimes — you've got to weather the storm a little bit.”
DUCKS AT WASHINGTON
When: 4 p.m. PST Friday.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Etc.: Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau returns to the arena where he coached from 2007 until 2011, winning last season's return game in dramatic fashion on a late third-period goal from defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Washington's Alex Ovechkin scored his 32nd goal in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Ottawa.