VANCOUVER – The Anaheim Ducks wanted to see how they compared to the best teams in the Western Conference.
Judging by their tough win over the league-leading Vancouver Canucks, they stack up pretty well.
Bobby Ryan scored two goals Wednesday, including the winner, as the Ducks beat Vancouver Canucks 4-3 before a disappointed sellout crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena.
Anaheim (30-21-4) ended league-leading Vancouver’s win streak at six games. The Canucks (35-11-9) had not lost in regulation since Jan. 16 in Minnesota.
“I think it’s a good gauge for us,” said Ryan, who extended his point streak to five games. “Obviously, they’re the pinnacle of the Western Conference. We can thrive off of this. Coming in, we looked at it as a huge test for us.”
Jason Blake and Brandon McMillan also scored for the Ducks, who won their fourth straight road game. Teemu Selanne added two assists, including one on the winning goal.
Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler replied for the Canucks, who outshot the Ducks 38-24 while losing at home for the first time since a Jan. 22 shootout setback to Calgary.
“We didn’t play good enough to win tonight,” Kesler said. “We turned too many pucks over. We didn’t follow the system. Coaches gave us a good system to win this game tonight and we didn’t follow it. It’s our fault we lost and we’ve got to regroup and get back on that W-train.”
Ryan said the win came after the Ducks were “down” following the trade of popular winger Joffrey Lupul to Toronto as part of a package for defenceman Francois Beauchemin in the morning. Anaheim was also dealing with the absence of all-star starting goaltender Jonas Hiller.
But backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney recorded 35 saves for his second straight win in place of Hiller, who is experiencing dizziness and has been placed on injured reserve suffering from fatigue.
In his last appearance in Vancouver on Dec. 8, McElhinney delivered a strong performance but was forced to leave in the third period after he took a shot off the mask and was badly cut. The Ducks wound up losing the game in a shootout.
“I was just happy I was able to make it the whole way through,” McElhinney said. “It’s a good feeling to get the win.”
McElhinney was grateful for the offensive support from the Ducks, who have an abundance of young scorers but still rank as one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league. Anaheim led 3-0 after the first period and 3-1 following the second, but the Canucks almost tied it in the game’s closing seconds.
Kesler’s goal in the final minute, with goaltender Cory Schneider pulled for an extra attacker, created a frantic finish.
“I didn’t think we really played that well with the puck, actually,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “I thought we didn’t execute like we were capable of. But we found a way to get four goals scored, and when you score four, you should win. We were lucky enough to hold on at the end.”
Ryan scored the winner at 6:10 of the third, restoring a two-goal Anaheim advantage, as he cashed in a 2-on-1 with Selanne. The goal came only 28 seconds after Burrows had brought the Canucks to within a goal at 3-2 on Henrik Sedin’s pass from behind the net.
“It was huge, certainly, to respond after our line had just been scored on,” Ryan said.
His first goal also came on a 2-on-1 as Ryan Getzlaf, in his first game back after missing 14 with multiple sinus fractures, sent a backhand pass to Ryan.
“I think I was the only one in the building that knew it was coming,” Ryan said. “He seemed to know exactly where I was. Obviously, that’s why he’s one of the best playmakers in the league.”
Moments after Ryan’s winner, Vancouver lost defenceman Dan Hamhuis on a blindside hit from behind by Getzlaf. Hamhuis, who had gone behind the net to retrieve a shoot-in, lay on his back for about five minutes before being helped to his feet and to the dressing room.
No penalty was called on the play.
“I was going in to make a play and it’s one of those things that it happens in a game and I wish nothing but the best for him,” Getzlaf said. “Obviously, I don’t want to hurt anybody out there. I went in to make the play. I didn’t leave my feet, I kept my shoulder downand he was just following through on a pass and it was an unfortunate accident.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said Hamhuis had a big red mark on his forehead after being “plastered” into the glass but appeared fine after the game and did not show signs of a concussion.
“It’s a physical game,” Vigneault said. “We dump the puck in, forecheck, try and hit. It’s part of the game.”
Hamhuis is the latest of several Canucks defencemen to go down with an injury this season. Kesler said his absence will be a huge loss if he can’t return soon.
“I don’t know the extent of the injury, but if he can’t play, that’s going to be tough to fill,” said Kesler.
NOTES: Beauchemin helped Anaheim win 2007 Stanley Cup . . . Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard is out four weeks with a strained knee suffered Monday against Ottawa. Rookie Chris Tanev took his place in the lineup . . . Canucks defenceman Sami Salo returned to Vancouver on Wednesday after completing a three-game conditioning stint with Manitoba of the AHL. Salo, recovered from an off-season torn Achilles tendon injury, is expected to suit up Saturday against Calgary . . . Anaheim winger Aaron Voros has cleared waivers and is awaiting reassignment.