Ducks meet up with a 3-1 victory over the Coyotes
Talk is cheap but losses are costly in the congested Western Conference, and the Ducks have done their share of talking and losing this season.
But a series of one-on-one meetings between players and coaches appeared to reinforce the urgency of their dodgy situation and inspire them to do something about it Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I think we came out with a lot of fire, a lot of passion,” defenseman Luca Sbisa said.
And promptly gave up a two-on-none break in the first 30 seconds.
Thanks to a sharp Jonas Hiller, the Ducks survived that mistake. They gathered their wits, energy and bruise-soothing ice bags well enough to score three times in the first period and earn a 3-1 victory before a lively crowd of 14,032 at Jobing.com Arena.
“We’re very fortunate to get out of here with two [points],” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said after his team reverted to character in the third period and gave the Coyotes their second five-on-three advantage of the game.
Sbisa recorded his first NHL goal on a long blast off a beautiful backpass from Saku Koivu, Joffrey Lupul chipped in midway through the opening period with a short wrist shot and Corey Perry took the puck from Sami Lepisto and fired a shot from the circle that beat Ilya Bryzgalov at 15:20, becoming the fourth NHL player to score 20 goals this season.
The Coyotes, held to a single goal in four straight games, scored during a five-on-three advantage at 15:39 of the second period, helped by a lucky deflection. Defenseman Andreas Lilja got his body in front of a shot by Ray Whitney but the puck caromed to Shane Doan, who easily put it away.
That was all they got, thanks to the Ducks’ solid penalty killing and superb shot-blocking. The Ducks were credited with 17 blocks, seven by Lilja.
“We talked about the things that they thought ailed us and some of the things I thought ailed them,” Carlyle said of the meetings. “We felt much better about ourselves today.”
They played like it, with Lilja exemplifying the sacrifice and effort the Ducks, ninth in the West, will need on a consistent basis.
“I think he had more saves than myself,” Hiller said. “In the end that’s the difference. Guys have scored and that’s important but it’s even more important not to get scored on.”
Lilja downplayed his contributions.
“I’m happy they shoot at me because that means it’s not coming to the net,” Lilja said. “I do whatever I can. That’s my job.”
The victory for the Ducks (19-17-4) was especially noteworthy because they lost team captain Ryan Getzlaf at 4:31 of the second period. He got in the way of a shot by Doan that was deflected by Cam Fowler and needed 10 stitches to close a gash on his forehead, but Perry said Getzlaf seemed all right. He will be evaluated Wednesday in Anaheim.
It’s easy to evaluate where the Ducks stand after playing a league-high 40 games: They’ve put themselves in a big hole.
“It’s just been a blur,” Carlyle said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Lilja was blunt.
“We got to realize now what time of year it is. We need to put some wins up because otherwise we’re not going to play come April,” he said.
True, that. But how to get those wins?
“Play the way we did tonight. Play the way we did in the first period,” Perry said. “We chipped it in, got on the forecheck and played that grinding game.
“Look at how the goals were scored — there’s all different ways but all those things added up. It was that grind game that got us going.”
That style of game is their best hope of turning those meetings and soul-bearing chats into something meaningful, and not just hot air.