Ducks are back atop the NHL standings with 3-1 victory over Montreal

Ducks are back atop the NHL standings with 3-1 victory over Montreal
Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban and Ducks center Andrew Cogliano battle for the puck behind the net during the second period. The Ducks beat the Canadiens, 3-1. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

John Gibson has won playoff games, posted a shutout in Chicago and started nine consecutive games in his young NHL career.

But there was something about Wednesday night, the way the 21-year-old Ducks goalie stopped every important shot the formidable Montreal Canadiens threw at him in Anaheim's 3-1 victory, that hinted at a deeper meaning.


On a night the Ducks won their fourth straight game and moved back atop the overall NHL standings, they moved closer to the postseason knowing they have two goalies playing in peak form.

"Just trying to build off the team. We have a nice streak going, I'm just trying to get better every night," Gibson said after his 37 saves lifted the Ducks (42-17-7) to their seventh win in eight games.

This one closed a back-to-back that began Tuesday night in Arizona and ended against the Eastern Conference leaders.

"I was just trying to get some good positioning. Obviously, a good team, they like to find the soft spots, so I was trying to get square to the puck as best I could. We knew it was a big game. It was a battle for first place in the league."

While Gibson kept Montreal (41-18-5) scoreless through two periods despite the visitors' 27 shots, he watched defenseman Francois Beauchemin stake him to a 1-0 lead with a first-period goal and center Rickard Rakell add one in the second period.

It was 3-0 on an empty net goal by Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler late in the third before the Canadiens finally beat Gibson, with 1:41 remaining.

A night earlier, the Ducks' other goalie, Frederik Andersen, beat Arizona to match the fastest goaltender in league history to 50 wins.

"You have a goalie playing every night who gives you a chance to win," Beauchemin said. "If it wasn't for 'Gibby' tonight, I don't think we would've won."

Beauchemin gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead 6 minutes and 31 seconds into the game, beating Montreal goalie Carey Price on a high shot to the right.

"It won't happen every game, but lately it seems to be happening more often than not," Beauchemin said.

Beauchemin is plus-10 in the last 11 games with five goals and two assists.

He has also increased his leadership, in response to the team's malaise last month and the absence of injured top-scoring defenseman Sami Vatanen.

He spent abundant time Wednesday directing the Ducks seated near him on the bench.

"It's part of my role, I want to make sure everyone knows what we're doing, so we can break out of our zone and play offense," Beauchemin said. "You can never talk too much on the ice."


The Ducks killed two penalties, then took a 2-0 lead early in the second when Rakell followed a shot by defenseman Hampus Lindholm that former Canadien Jiri Sekac tipped on the rebound.

Sekac, who has made it clear his offensive mentality didn't jibe with Montreal's defense-first philosophy, celebrated heartily at his former team's misfortune.

"I'm not going to lie. It's a pretty good feeling that we beat the Habs," Sekac said.

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire