EDMONTON – The Ducks are officially back in the hunt.
Captain Scott Niedermayer sparked his team with a goal and two assists as the Anaheim Ducks moved into a playoff position with a much-needed 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
Rob Niedermayer had a pair of goals and Sheldon Brookbank and Chris Pronger also scored for the Ducks (39-32-6), who have won seven of their last eight to jump into a tie for seventh in the tight Western Conference playoff race. The Ducks and Nashville Predators both have 84 points.
“We’re in a group of five teams that are competing and battling for two positions and we’re just giving ourselves a chance to live another day and that’s all you can do,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle.
Scott Niedermayer said the secret is to try and keep the playoff race from overwhelming them.
“We were not in the playoff picture for a while,” he said. “We’re just kind of focusing on playing well right now. We’re just putting everything else aside, forgetting about the standings and things like that. Forget about who’s doing what and just plugging away, and that’s what we have to keep doing.”
Andrew Cogliano, Denis Grebeshkov and Zack Stortini replied for the Oilers (36-32-9), who slipped farther out of contention in the West. With losses in five of their last six games, Edmonton fell three points back of eighth and into a tie for 10th with Minnesota at 81 points.
All the Oilers can do at this point is take the positives and hope for the best.
“A lot of our guys played really well,” said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. “At this point in the season if there is anything you can grasp onto you do it. There were some positives, we got some help out of town and there are still 10 points available. I’d like to believe if we continue to play the style of hockey we did tonight that we will have some success in the last five games.”
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish is only worried about the next one.
“There is still potential,” he said. “What we need right now is to simply focus on winning a game. When that happens things can turn around in a hurry.”
“It’s not out of reach,” added forward Shawn Horcoff. “Two teams above us lose twice and we win twice and we’re back in it with three to play. There is still belief in here.”
Edmonton struck first, 10 minutes in on the power play, as Ales Kotalik slid a pass through Pronger’s legs to Cogliano, who roofed his shot past Anaheim starter Jonas Hiller for a 1-0 lead.
The Ducks came back with almost a carbon copy of Edmonton’s goal just four minutes later. This time it was Ryan Getzlaf who fed it through Kotalik’s legs to Brookbank, who beat Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson for his first career NHL goal.
Anaheim surged ahead just 33 seconds into the second period with a nice three-way passing play on the power play. Teemu Selanne wasted no time sending the puck to Scott Niedermayer, who was able to beat Roloson glove-side before the goaltender could get over.
The Ducks went ahead 3-1 five minutes in on another power-play goal as Pronger scored on a blast from the point with Edmonton’s Tom Gilbert serving a double-minor for high-sticking Bobby Ryan.
Anaheim looked to have put the game out of reach late in the second as Scott Niedermayer dished the puck to brother Rob at the top of the face-off circle, and his high shot seemed to catch Roloson off guard to make it 4-1 after 40 minutes.
Edmonton finally made a game of it in the dying minutes with goals just over a minute apart. Grebeshkov pinched deep and sent a rebound through Hiller’s legs with 3:27 to play, then Stortini scored with Roloson on the bench for the extra attacker.
The Oilers tried a desperate gambit in the final two minutes by calling for a stick measurement on Selanne but received a penalty themselves when it was deemed legal, leading to a power play empty-netter by Rob Niedermayer, his second of the game.
“We had what we thought was some reliable information,” said MacTavish. “On a visual it didn’t even look close to me. I was so sure that I made the call and it was obviously a terrible mistake. You have to be sure and I thought I had enough information so it’s a terrible feeling. It sabotaged what was looking like was going to be a heck of a comeback.”
Carlyle said MacTavish took a real risk on the call with 2:11 to play in a one-goal game.
“You better be 100 per cent sure,” he said. “The curve is really something you can’t call any more because it’s 3/4 inch and it’s a big curve. Teemu is right on the edge. We make sure, and its part of our trainers’ responsibility that he plays with a legal stick.”
Both teams return to action on Thursday with Edmonton playing the third game of a six-game homestand against San Jose and the Ducks playing the second of a three-game trip in Vancouver.
Notes: Roloson made his 33rd consecutive start and also played in his 60th game of the season, becoming the oldest goaltender in NHL history to appear in 60 or more games at 39 years of age The Ducks came into the year without a lot of recent success in Edmonton, with wins in just two of their last 16, but captured victories in both appearances at Rexall Place this year Defenceman Theo Peckham was inserted into the Edmonton lineup to replace fellow blue-liner Ladislav Smid, who will miss the remainder of the season with a fractured hand suffered in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota The Ducks were missing defenceman Bret Hedican, out with back spasms.