What we learned from the Ducks' shutout victory over the Buffalo Sabres

Another win, a different way for the Ducks.

After an offensive explosion in each of their previous four games, they worked out a 1-0 win against Buffalo behind Frederik Andersen’s first shutout this season and Sami Vatanen’s goal.

Among their many second-half superlatives, the Ducks own the NHL’s best record since Christmas at 20-4-2. They pulled two points behind the Kings in the Pacific Division.

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Here’s what we learned:

The goalie competition is in back in full swing. Andersen got the start after John Gibson won the previous two games. The two have essentially split the decisions since Christmas, with Andersen 10-0-2 and Gibson 10-4-0.

“We have a great goalie duo right now,” Vatanen said. “It helps for the D-men. If we make mistakes there, we know they’re going to back us up. It’s fun to see those guys playing there and winning some hockey games for us.”

The defensemen are a big part of the Ducks’ turnaround. Vatanen’s goal gave Anaheim 17 goals in 26 games by defensemen since Christmas. Before Christmas, they had 12 by defensemen in the first 33 games of the season.

Vatanen turned in one of his clutch games. Besides his goal, he made a key block with his back turned on a Sabres shot in the third.

“When he’s playing good, it adds to the offense and defense,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “For a little guy, he competes with anybody.”

Jack Eichel was still impressive. Eichel, the second pick of last year’s draft, had two shots and lost 13 of 16 faceoffs, mostly going against Ryan Kesler. But the 19-year-old was as good as advertised early with speed, passing ability and an inside-out move on defenseman Simon Despres.

Kesler and the Ducks will see last year’s No. 1 pick, Connor McDavid of Edmonton, on Friday.

Follow Curtis Zupke on Twitter @CurtisZupke

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