Penner scored with 5:20 remaining to lift the Anaheim Ducks to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night in the opening game of their first-round playoff series. Penner poked the puck in after Minnesota defenceman Kim Johnsson crashed into Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, sending him sprawling backward into the net. The puck was sitting in the crease, and Corey Perry swept it toward the goal. Penner took a couple of swipes at it and forced it in.
“I saw it coming. That’s why I moved over to the side,” Penner said. “If the puck didn’t go in after the initial shot I wanted to be able to pick up any loose change.
“I was looking for the puck, the ref was right there and he made a great call. Obviously the puck was free. You could see it on the replay. Perry and I just whacked away and it went in.”
Backstrom thought the goal should have been disallowed.
“I watched the replay and I was sure it was under me and nobody saw the puck,” he said. “Of course, you’re going to get the puck out from a goalie if you slash at it with your sticks.
“That’s a bad goal and we lose a game on that,” added Backstrom, who stopped 32 shots.
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire wasn’t so sure it should’ve counted, either.
“I don’t know if he stopped the puck or whether he was right on top of it or if it was under the pad,” Lemaire said. “He waited a bit and they whacked the puck right in.”
Teemu Selanne tied it for Anaheim with a second-period goal, just 3:51 after Pavol Demitra scored for Minnesota.
Ilya Bryzgalov started in place of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and made 24 saves for Anaheim.
“It’s the playoffs and all the marbles are on the floor,” Bryzgalov said. “It’s very important. It was a very difficult game. Every game is so close.”
Giguere has been taking time off to be with his wife and newborn son. Maxime was born April 4 with a condition that could leave him blind in his right eye. Giguere and his wife, Kristen, were worried about the vision in the baby’s left eye as well, but a specialist told them on Tuesday that their son will have sight in that one.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle explained his decision to keep Giguere on the bench: “We felt that the emotional roller coaster Giguere has been on, it was more beneficial to let him get his feet underneath him.
“With the good news that he received yesterday about his son, we felt it would be best if he backed up tonight. Now we have both goaltenders available.”
Giguere was the MVP of the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs, when the Ducks were beaten in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals by New Jersey.
Bryzgalov played well during the post-season last year when Giguere was injured, helping Anaheim advance to the Western Conference finals, where the Ducks lost in five games to Edmonton.
The 36-year-old Selanne, rejuvenated since his return to Anaheim before the 2005-06 season, took a long pass from Francois Beauchemin, broke behind the defence and into the slot, where he slid the puck between Backstrom’s pads at 9:52 of the second period.
Demitra beat Bryzgalov with a 15-foot slap shot down the slot, with the puck sailing into the net high on the goalie’s glove side at 14:51 of the second period.
Notes: Giguere had three shutouts as the Ducks swept the Wild in the Western Conference finals in 2003, Minnesota’s last appearance in the postseason. … The Ducks and Wild split their regular-season series this season, with each team winning twice on home ice. … Selanne’s goal was his 29th in the postseason for Anaheim, tying him with Paul Kariya for the franchise record.