Bruce Boudreau should have known better.
The Ducks' coach, emotionally spent after his team scored the first three goals against Minnesota, gave up the next four and scored the final two Friday to wrest a 5-4 victory from the Wild, shouldn't have allowed himself to think the game would be easy.
But why wouldn't he? The Ducks were up, 3-0, on two goals by Ryan Kesler sandwiched around a shot from the slot by Jakob Silfverberg, and all signs pointed toward a rare rout. True, Corey Perry was in the locker room at the Xcel Energy Center after taking a hard hip check from Keith Ballard — Perry's left-knee injury was later described as apparently not serious — but the Ducks were dominating the meek Wild.
"Until the penalties happened they were, I thought, pretty lifeless," Boudreau said. "And I made the mistake of saying, 'OK finally we're going to win a game without [stress]. So it's my fault."
Blame him for the back-and-forth nature of the Ducks' 13th one-goal win this season. "When was the last time we won a game by more than one goal?" Boudreau said. "I can't remember it."
For the record, it was a 4-1 decision over Columbus on Oct. 24, in their eighth game of the season.
Or blame the craziness on goaltender Frederik Andersen, who sometimes looked shaky but outplayed his counterpart, Darcy Kuemper, who was yanked and replaced by Niklas Backstrom.
"They played well today and they got the bounces and scored on their opportunities," said Andersen, who gave up the four goals on the first 16 shots he faced. "It's definitely tougher when you don't see a lot of shots. But that's on me, to be ready all the time."
Or blame the difficulty on those penalties Boudreau mentioned, called against Ryan Getzlaf for delay of game and Kesler for high-sticking 28 seconds apart in the second period. Even the Wild, whose power play was called "terrible" this week by winger Zach Parise, couldn't miss this opportunity: Mikko Koivu scored during the five-on-three advantage when his centering shot was deflected past Andersen, and Parise snapped a shot past Andersen on the five-on-four advantage.
Suddenly, the Ducks' lead was 3-2. Then, it vanished and became a 4-3 edge for Minnesota, on a long, rising shot by Jonas Brodin at 17:49 of the second period and a shot by Justin Fontaine that skipped past Andersen at 2:07 of the third period.
"We thought we were in control of the game there for a while," Ducks winger Tim Jackman said. "Then it was 4-3. We just got back to our game. We started getting pucks low and started to shoot pucks and we were lucky to get a couple in there."
Still, it made for a bizarre evening.
"Just a hockey game, I guess," said winger Matt Beleskey, who scored what held up as the game-winner from the slot, on a nice setup from Getzlaf, at 8:28 of the third period. "I don't know how to explain that. That's not how you draw it up. But it's two points at the end of the day."
They won and regained the top spot in the West thanks in part to Jackman's tying goal, which came 90 seconds after Fontaine had put Minnesota ahead. Jackman took a lead pass from Kesler and took a shot that was blocked by Wild defenseman Christian Folin, but the rebound came back to Jackman. His second attempt succeeded, Jackman's second goal this season.
"It was fun to help out on the score sheet," he said. "I don't get to do it too often so it's always fun."
The timing was crucial, and so was the guy who scored it. Not a finesse player but someone who stepped up when the Ducks needed an offensive boost or to compensate for an injury.
"Jacko's been working so hard in the last little while," Getzlaf said. "He gets taken out of the lineup some nights and he never complains. He just plays, and he plays hard. It's nice to see a guy like that get rewarded."
Finally, two bits of medical news: Perry accompanied the team to Winnipeg for Sunday's game. And a club spokesman said forward Emerson Etem was diagnosed with mumps while playing for Norfolk (Va.) of the American Hockey League, the Ducks' fourth mumps case. Etem, of Long Beach, was said to be improving.