ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Anaheim Ducks already were enjoying an outstanding season, and then they added veteran Radek Dvorak to the mix. Judging by what he’s contributed in such a short time, he could help put them over the top.
Dvorak scored two goals for the Ducks in a 2-1 victory over the sputtering Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. The 36-year-old right wing has three goals in his first five games since leaving his team in Switzerland and signing with Anaheim as a free agent on March 26.
“You never know. I mean, he’s 36 years old, it’s a shortened season and he’d already signed to play somewhere else,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But I know he brings a wealth of experience, he knows how to play in a tight game and he can still skate. The goals are a bonus—and tonight they were a super bonus. But we’ll take them.”
Jonas Hiller made 27 saves after missing four games because of an illness, helping the Ducks move closer to their second Pacific Division title in franchise history and first since their 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship season. They lead Pittsburgh by one point and trail Chicago by three for the NHL’s best overall record with eight games remaining.
“I remember hearing some people saying at the beginning: ‘Let’s have a good year and maybe make the playoffs if we work hard.’ But from Day 1, I’ve always believed that if you don’t shoot for the moon, you don’t get there,” Boudreau said. “… If you don’t want the whole enchilada, I don’t want you on the team.”
Defenceman Nick Schultz ended a 58-game goal drought and Devan Dubnyk stopped 36 shots for the Oilers. They are tied for 10th place in the Western Conference with Dallas, four points behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot.
“We’re really in a tough spot right now. We really had to win this one,” forward Taylor Hall said. “It’s going to take a lot for our group, and we’re just going to have to stay motivated because you never know what can happen.”
The Ducks were nursing a 1-0 lead when Schultz chased the puck to the left boards in the Anaheim zone and let fly with a 45-foot slap shot that found daylight between Hiller’s right shoulder and the crossbar. It was his first goal since Feb. 26, 2012.
The Ducks regained the lead when Dvorak converted a rebound of Daniel Winnik’s 30-foot wrist shot. It was the 20th career multi-goal game for the 17-year veteran, who had just four goals in 73 games last season with Dallas. Saku Koivu got the secondary assist on both of his goals.
“When I was playing in Switzerland, I wasn’t expecting a phone call,” Dvorak said. “But I did and I’m very glad I can be here and play with these guys.”
In the first meeting of the season between the teams, the Ducks opened the scoring at 17:21 of the opening period when Dvorak pounced on a rebound of Ben Lovejoy’s slap shot from the right point and put a backhander past Dubnyk’s stick.
“There’s a lot of things you could be happy about,” Boudreau said. “I mean, it wasn’t a textbook perfect hockey game. … But I’m happy with our compete level and that we didn’t wilt.”
Edmonton took nine shots on net before Anaheim recorded its first, a 45-foot wrist shot by Dvorak that Dubnyk gloved at the 10:08 mark. By the time the period ended, the Ducks had a 15-11 advantage and only had one goal to show for it.
“You only get so many chances to score, and if you don’t take advantage of it, the other team’s going to do it,” Boudreau said.
The Oilers, who came in with the league’s second-best power-play conversion percentage (23.2), squandered their first opportunity as Jordan Eberle was sent off for interference on the faceoff just 2 seconds after Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey got an interference penalty of his own. They didn’t get another power play until 15:24 of the second, and that one also was cut short by 18 seconds when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was sent off for tripping former Oiler Andrew Cogliano.
“For some reason in the last few games, we’re taking more penalties than we have in the past,” Schultz said. “We’re killing the speed of our game. We need to be more disciplined and make sure we’re not killing ourselves. We need to be better in a lot of areas, winning battles and getting pucks in the net.”
The Oilers finished their road trip 1-3-0. They will play seven of their final nine games at home, including a back-to-back set against the Ducks April 21-22. It’s the only time they will play home games on consecutive nights during the lockout-shortened 48-game schedule.
NOTES: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim’s captain and leading scorer, missed his third straight game because of a leg injury. … Edmonton RW Ales Hemsky, whose only goal in his last 18 games was the winner against Columbus, was scratched because of a nagging foot injury. … Oilers LW Ryan Smyth has only two goals in 38 games this season and none in his last 23 since Feb. 21, when he connected on his 37th birthday against Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom at Edmonton. Smyth had 30 or more goals five times in his NHL career, topping out at 39 with the Oilers in 1996-97, his first full season in the league.