If the Ducks' fortunes depended on Clayton Stoner's scoring, they'd be in trouble. The rugged defenseman scored his fifth career goal Sunday and first since last March 18, an unassisted, long-range shot at 4:19 of the third period that put the Ducks ahead for good in a 3-1 victory over the Stars at American Airlines Center.
"Stoney just powered it through," said center Ryan Getzlaf, who provided a cushion by scoring on a breakaway with 5:51 left in the third period. "He's been working on that one."
In truth, the Ducks' fortunes will depend on their ability to make the kind of push they exerted in the first period, the poised manner in which goaltender John Gibson rescued them while they were outshot in the second period, and their assertiveness in regaining control in the third.
Gibson made a career-high 39 saves, including 16 in the second period and rapid-fire stops on Curtis McKenzie and Vern Fiddler early in the third, shortly before Stoner capitalized on a Dallas turnover and broke a 1-1 tie. Gibson's performance was the backbone of the Ducks' fifth win in six games and officially put their early-February 1-4-1 slump behind them.
"I think we're starting to build momentum and play more of our style," said Stoner, who ended a 57-game goal drought with a shot that got past Jhonas Enroth's glove. "We weren't ourselves for a little bit. I think you're seeing flashes of our team, the way we can play, and hopefully we can just keep polishing it and fine-tuning it for the playoffs."
The team the Ducks will have has come into clearer view with the acquisition last Tuesday of left wing Jiri Sekac — who came out of the penalty box to set up Corey Perry's goal at 17:46 of the first period — and the acquisition Saturday of left wing Tomas Fleischmann from Florida. In addition, with Monday's noon (Pacific time) trade deadline nearing, the Ducks placed unproductive left wing Rene Bourque on waivers. He can be claimed until 9 a.m. Monday, but that's unlikely because he has another year left on his contract.
Fleischmann didn't play Sunday because weather delays postponed his arrival until mid-afternoon. He skated in the warmups and pronounced himself impressed with his new team.
"The guys found a way to win," said Fleischmann, who had seven goals and 21 points in 52 games with the Panthers this season. "They had a really tough second period, but then you can tell this is a strong team, and they came through and won the game."
The Ducks (40-17-7) won despite their second-period lull, which led to Patrick Eaves' game-tying power-play goal off a rebound at 17:51 of that period, and despite losing right wing Tim Jackman to a lower-body injury when he collided with Ales Hemsky during his second shift of the game. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Jackman's status is day to day.
Getzlaf had the second assist on Perry's goal and was set up by Perry for his breakaway, putting him at the 20-goal level for the fifth time in his career. The two points gave him 669 for his career, tying him with Paul Kariya for second on the Ducks' all-time scoring list. "I'm not a big number guy," Getzlaf said. "I'm happy."
He wasn't happy with the Ducks' flat second period and said stretches like those have "become a little too common for our liking." He added, "We've got to counteract those things, and the goaltender's got to play his part, and he did a great job tonight. He was big. He made the saves he should and a couple that he shouldn't. That's what we need out of our goaltender."
Gibson said he never felt he was under siege. "I think we were always under control," he said. "Obviously, a team's going to make a push. Anybody can do that in the league. It's just how you handle it, and I thought we handled it well. We came into the third period tied, and we knew we had a period to win a hockey game."
Which they did, something that has become a habit lately.