Ducks get 2-1 win over Ottawa; Mark Bell gets a second chance
Game 46 for the Ducks featured tight defense, superb goaltending and one of those faceoffs leading to goal, a well-executed play coaches always envision but rarely get to see in a game.
The big picture? Anaheim defeated Ottawa, 2-1, on Saturday at Honda Center, meaning it was the first time in 12 road games the Senators did not pick up at least a point.
It was the fifth straight home victory for the Ducks, who have recorded points in eight consecutive games. Goalie Jonas Hiller is on a 5-0-1 run.
Scoring for the Ducks were forward Corey Perry and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.
Perry’s goal came after a scrambled faceoff play and a smooth pass from Bobby Ryan, cutting between the Senators’ defenseman. Visnovksy’s goal was of a fluke-ish variety, aided by Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson’s deflection, resulting in the puck going off the left shoulder of Senators goalie Craig Anderson.
So along with another Ducks win, there’s also a micro-vision — a story within the story — with perhaps a larger meaning. And on this January day in Anaheim it was the long-and-winding journey of 31-year-old forward Mark Bell.
Bell may have been on the fourth line. He may have played four minutes and 45 seconds.
But those limited minutes held more than the normal significance because they were the first Bell had played in the NHL since April 5, 2008. The Ducks, who signed him as a free agent in July, recalled him from their minor-league affiliate in Syracuse on Friday and he was in the lineup on Saturday afternoon.
“I felt like I played some games all over the world and it’s been a long road,” said Bell, who spent the last two seasons playing in Switzerland. “Like I said, it’s pretty sweet to get the win.
“To be here with these guys, I don’t know what else to say. I can’t put any emotions on it. There’s a lot of emotions going on.
“I’m appreciating it every minute I’m here.”
Bell’s return caught many by surprise. When he was with the San Jose Sharks, he was charged with hit-and-run and driving under the influence after an accident in Northern California during Labor Day weekend in 2006. He ended up pleading no contest to the charges, was sentenced to six months and worked on a road crew in the summer of 2008.
“You’ve got to be your biggest supporter and you don’t want to doubt yourself, and there’s always some dog days when you’re coming through stuff like that,” Bell said. “I tried not to doubt myself, but when you have some tough days it creeps in. But for the most part, I just believed in myself and my ability.”
When the Ducks faced their latest injury concerns — forward Matt Beleskey missed Saturday’s game with a swollen right hand — they made the usual call to Syracuse.
“When we phoned down it was, ‘Who’s the best player you’ve got?’ ” said Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau. “And they said Mark Bell.’ So that was the simplest for me.
“If this was a [Ducks] team that had 25 points at this stage, we would have said, ‘Listen, let’s try Peter Holland. Let’s try this. Let’s try that.”
Bell was going lights out in the first period when he hit the ice.
“I kind of had to settle myself down a few times,” he said.
His recall, in a sense, spoke volumes about the Ducks’ approach at this stage. Even now, Anaheim is not quite ready to commit to a youth movement in what has been a turbulent season. They are 13th in the Western Conference and were 11 points out of a playoff spot with eighth-place Colorado playing the Kings later on Saturday.
“We played more complete. We weren’t as sloppy,” Boudreau said. “We didn’t have the giveaway that we had the other night [a 6-2 win against Phoenix]. If we did, we wouldn’t have beat this team. There’s a reason why they’ve been the best team in the NHL since the beginning of December. You have to do something special to defeat a team like that. It’s not just mirrors.”
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