ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Anaheim Ducks turned their offence up a notch against the defensive-minded Minnesota Wild and got the desired results against a team that’s having difficulty scoring goals itself.
Brendan Morrison scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, and Chris Kunitz set up first-period goals by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, leading the Ducks to a 4-2 victory Sunday. Bobby Ryan also scored, and Chris Pronger had two assists.
“These games are tough to play because there’re really disciplined in their system,” Morrison said. “They’re a team that feasts on turnovers, so you’ve got to make sure you get the puck deep in their zone. We were talking in here before the game about the fact that we really needed to drive to the net and go after loose pucks.”
The loss was the fifth straight for Minnesota, the first time in the franchise’s nine-year history it has had a five-game losing streak with all five games being decided in regulation. Eric Belanger had a goal and an assist, and Marc-Andre Bergeron scored on the power play.
“This was our best game in the last five,” said coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team has been outscored 13-5 and outshot 183-142 during the skid. “We played with more intensity. We battled for pucks and we tried hard. You could see the energy and the intensity was there.”
Belanger tied it 2-2 at 2:32 of the second period. But Anaheim regained the lead at 6:51 of the period when Morrison cruised down the slot a step ahead of Bergeron and redirected Todd Marchant’s centring feed past backup goalie Josh Harding.
Later in the second, Bergeron took a slap shot from the left point that goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped while Andrew Brunette was screening him. The puck trickled off Giguere’s leg pad and behind him into the crease, but Marchant alertly swooped in at the last instant and swept it away before it reached the goal line.
“Those are the little things that don’t get noticed on the scoresheet, but are invaluable through the course of the game,” Pronger said.
Anaheim made it 4-2 with 1:14 left in the second. George Parros intercepted an attempted clearing pass by Minnesota captain Kim Johnsson and quickly fed the puck to Ryan, who had a wide-open net to shoot at with Harding way out of position.
Minnesota’s Derek Boogaard, who has played a whopping 140 games since his last goal on Jan. 7, 2006, against Anaheim’s Ilya Bryzgalov, had a golden opportunity to end that drought less than three minutes into the game. Giguere went behind his net to clear the puck and put it right onto the stick of Boogaard, who shot it right at the sprawling Giguere with the left side of the net wide open.
The six-foot-eight, 257-pound left wing is one of three forwards in the league who has played at least 25 games this season and not scored a goal. The others are Florida centre Brett McLean and Los Angeles left wing Raitis Ivanans.
“He kind of cheated on me when I was behind the net and went to the far side – and when I saw that, I held the puck,” Giguere said. “I didn’t have any other play, so I tried to shoot it by him and he read it pretty well.”
Last season, Giguere was 0-3 against Minnesota with a 4.40 goals-against average. But in his five post-season starts against the Wild, he is 5-0 – including shutouts in the first three games of the 2003 Western Conference final. In those five games, the Wild scored just two goals on 153 shots.
“They’re a team that works hard, so it’s important to outwork them if you want to be successful,” Giguere said. “Last year the three games I lost, there was a lack of effort and focus. So tonight everybody wanted to be focused. Even though they don’t score many goals, they don’t give up many goals, either.”
The Ducks, coming off a 2-0 loss at San Jose on Thursday night, scored on their second shot of the game when Getzlaf beat Harding with a short wrist shot.
Harding never had a chance on the Ducks’ second goal. It came on a picture-perfect passing play involving Kunitz and Perry, who had practically the entire net to shoot at after getting a cross-ice feed from Kunitz deep in the right circle.
“It was nice to see that line chip in as much as they did tonight,” Pronger said. “It’s fun to watch when they’re moving the puck like that. All three of them are very creative. Perry and Getzlaf are great down low in the corners and behind the net. Kunitz does a lot of the speed work up and down the wings, while the other two cycle around in the corners and create traffic in front.”
Notes: The Ducks traded C Brian Sutherby to Dallas for David McIntyre and a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft. … Minnesota survived a four-minute Anaheim power play after defenceman Nick Schultz received a double-minor for inadvertently cutting Teemu Selanne with a high stick in the first.