ANAHEIM, Calif. – Jonas Hiller’s legs ached and burned from overuse in the third period even before the Vancouver Canucks ended the game with 16 unanswered shots at the Anaheim goalie.
Nobody said a six-game skid would be easy to snap, and Hiller’s Ducks seem to find the hard way to do everything this season.
Corey Perry and Andrew Cogliano scored during a five-minute power play in Anaheim’s four-goal second period, and the Ducks survived Vancouver’s furious three-goal third period for a 4-3 victory over the Canucks on Friday night.
Hiller made 19 of his 38 saves in the third period for the Ducks, who came within one stray puck of blowing a four-goal lead in just their second victory since Oct. 17. Yet the Ducks’ survival left them with a bit of hope they’ve made progress after a poor start.
“Two points is two points, doesn’t matter how you win,” said Perry, last season’s MVP. “We sat back a little bit too much after that great second period, but that’s when veterans have to step up and give some leadership, and we did that.”
It wasn’t nearly that simple, however.
Anaheim had a four-goal cushion after Peter Holland scored his first NHL goal late in the second period. Saku Koivu scored the opener before Vancouver defenceman Aaron Rome got a game misconduct for a dangerous hit on Ducks rookie Devante Smith-Pelly, leading to two power-play goals.
But Jannik Hansen scored two goals and Kevin Bieksa added another for the Canucks, who fell just short in the finale of a six-game trip despite outshooting Anaheim 22-2 in the third period. Anaheim didn’t manage a shot in the final 13:52.
“Penalty-killing has been our strong suit for the past several games, but we did a good job coming back,” said Hansen, who got his second goal on an off-balance shot with 6:56 left. “Playing back-to-back games is a little different than when you get days off in between, but I don’t think we were tired.”
Vancouver relentlessly pressured Hiller in the final minutes, playing the last 59 seconds with a 6-on-4 advantage. The Swiss goalie made a handful of huge saves to preserve Anaheim’s win.
“We gave them a little too much,” Hiller said. “They had lots of speed coming through the neutral zone, and our defencemen had no chance to stand up or do anything. At the end, we found a way. That’s definitely something we can build on and get the confidence that we can win against one of the best teams in the league.”
Roberto Luongo stopped 15 shots before Cory Schneider played the third period for the Canucks. The defending Presidents’ Trophy winners and Western Conference champions are just 8-8-1, but they headed home to Vancouver feeling good about their final 20 minutes.
“In the third period, we played the way we should play and showed how good we can be,” forward Daniel Sedin said. “Everyone was forechecking hard, and we had great chances. In the first two periods, we weren’t good enough. It was too much to come back against. We should play the whole game like we did in the third period.”
With a little help from Rome, the Ducks finally produced at least one period befitting their enormous offensive talent. Anaheim has stumbled after a 4-1 start, winning just one of their previous 10 games before a players-only meeting at their training complex Thursday.
“We had to get that monkey off our back,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “We’ve been floundering along here. We’ve played some good hockey in spurts, and we did the same thing tonight, but we had enough of a cushion. It was pretty tense in some situations there, and everything was going against us. You could see the ice was tilted, and they were winning all the battles. Jonas Hiller stood tall.”
Rome woke up the Ducks when he hit Smith-Pelly in front of Anaheim’s bench, appearing to raise his elbow while making direct contact with the teenager’s head. Smith-Pelly spit blood before leaving the ice, but returned late in the second period.
Rome infamously turned last season’s Stanley Cup finals in the Boston Bruins’ favour with his open-ice check on Nathan Horton in Game 3. Horton incurred a season-ending concussion, and Rome was suspended for the rest of the series as Boston won four of the final five games.
NOTES: Hiller earned an assist on Cogliano’s goal. … Canucks C Andrew Ebbett sat out after breaking his foot while blocking a shot at Los Angeles on Thursday. Ebbett could be out for up to two weeks. … Vancouver LW Alex Burrows returned from a two-game absence caused by back spasms. … Holland scored in his third NHL game, skating into the slot and ripping a wrist shot over Luongo’s shoulder. He was the Ducks’ first-round pick in 2009.