When you are closer to the bottom of the league standings than you are to the top, you take your victories where you can get them. And when they come in spades? Well, so much the better.
That certainly seemed to be the case Tuesday for the injury-riddled Ducks, who snapped a two-game losing streak by fighting their way past an ill-tempered Minnesota Wild, 4-2, at the Honda Center.
Of more importance, however, is they did it behind a stout offensive effort that featured two goals and an assist from Bobby Ryan; a season-high 17 shots in the first period; and 21 shifts from center Ryan Carter, who had missed the previous 22 games with a broken foot.
“Hopefully it’s just a sign of things to come for them,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. “Every game is the most important game as we go forward. You’ve heard it said in sports a thousand times and you’re going to hear it a thousand more. Because it’s a fact.”
Another fact: The four goals the Ducks scored Tuesday doubled their output from their previous two games combined. And the sputtering offense figures to get a couple of more boosts in the next week with the return of Teemu Selanne, out a month with a broken hand, and Ryan Getzlaf, who was sidelined Tuesday with a leg laceration.
That would leave the Ducks healthier on the front line than they have been in more than a month.
“That’s a lot of points and a lot of offensive production we’re missing,” said Ryan, whose three points matched a career best. “So myself and Saku [Koivu] and [Dan] Sexton, it’s a big night. We need to step up. It’s nice to contribute when those guys are out and get this team going.”
They did just that Tuesday.
With Minnesota playing its second game in as many nights, the Ducks came out quickly, taking an early lead when Ryan intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, circled back across the blue line and scored his 18th goal of the season on a wrist shot at 7:08.
Minnesota’s Antti Miettinen tied the score on a rebound at 15:41, but the Ducks went back on top 35 seconds later with a pretty goal that started with Ryan skating into the Wild zone on the right side and drawing three defenders before passing across the ice to a wild-open Sexton for the score.
Things got chippy in the second period, with the Wild drawing 31 minutes in penalties, including two 10-minute misconducts and a five-minute major for fighting. The Ducks took advantage with Ryan’s power-play goal at 18:44, giving him 100 points for his career.
The assists went to Scott Niedermayer and Koivu, both of whom could get more good news today when Canada, Finland and Switzerland release their rosters for February’s Olympic tournament.
Getzlaf, Niedermayer and Corey Perry are all given good chances to make the Canadian team while Koivu and Selanne could make the Finnish team and goalie Jonas Hiller, who turned back 29 shots Tuesday, could go to Vancouver with Switzerland.
After Kim Johnsson got the Wild close with a power-play goal at 13:07 of the third period, the Ducks killed penalties to Niedermayer and Nick Boynton in the final three minutes before Todd Marchant finished a strong performance -- and the Minnesota comeback -- with an empty-net goal.
“I think we’ve been in desperation mode for 10, 15 games here,” Ryan said. “We need to get out of the cellar. So this is a very critical part.
“We’re at a point where we’re looking up instead of where we were 10 games ago, looking down on ourselves.”