ANAHEIM, Calif. – Although the San Jose Sharks have bigger accomplishments in mind for this season, at least they finally figured out how to beat the woebegone Anaheim Ducks.
Brad Winchester and Benn Ferriero scored 27 seconds apart in the second period, and the Sharks topped Anaheim for the first time in four tries this season, 3-1 Wednesday night.
Joe Pavelski also scored and Antti Niemi made 26 saves in his 13th consecutive start for the Sharks, who were inexplicably mastered in their first three meetings with the Ducks, who sit 29th in the NHL standings.
San Jose couldn’t score for the first 36 minutes, but Winchester’s shot off the post and Ferriero’s hustle play in front of Jonas Hiller’s net erased an early deficit and sent the Ducks spiralling to their seventh loss in eight games.
“We were able to generate some momentum there, and we played a lot tighter game,” said Winchester, the former Ducks forward. “We played a lot better against them than we played the first three times.”
San Jose nudged back into first place in the Pacific Division with the victory. Although the Sharks are still on pace for their eighth consecutive season with at least 99 points, captain Joe Thornton thinks they need more of these consistent efforts.
“Against Hiller, we realize it’s very difficult to score on this guy,” Thornton said of his former teammate in Switzerland’s top league. “So getting that first one by him got us some confidence … and we banged another in, so that’s a huge momentum swing for us. You’ve just got to stick with it. We realize we’re a good team. If we keep (opponents) to one or two goals, we have a good chance to win.”
The Sharks doubled Anaheim’s shot total but couldn’t score until Winchester’s shot pinballed off the iron and barely crossed the goal line with 3:37 left in the second period.
New Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau frequently has lamented the way Anaheim’s shoulders slump after giving up a goal, and Ferriero capitalized on that tendency by corralling a loose puck in front and flinging it past Hiller moments later.
“There’s just no resiliency, I guess would be the best word,” Ducks forward Bobby Ryan said. “Obviously, you get down (after allowing a goal), but that shift that follows has to be the best shift of the game, and we give up another goal. As a team, throughout the year there’s been a sense that if they get one, something bad is going to happen.”
Shortly after San Jose killed a power play, Pavelski gave some cushion to the Sharks with 7:17 to play when Hiller yielded an atrocious rebound of Thornton’s shot, allowing Pavelski to score his 16th goal into a nearly open net.
Corey Perry scored for the Ducks, who have lost 11 of 14 since Boudreau replaced Randy Carlyle.
“I told them, ‘I know it’s no consolation, but that’s maybe the hardest you’ve worked since (their last two victories),'” Boudreau said. “That’s something that’s got to be commonplace. That can’t be something you just do when you’re playing a team after hard practices for two days. You have to have the will to do that every day.”
Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf’s scoreless slump reached a career-worst six games in the Ducks’ third straight loss to start a six-game homestand. Getzlaf, the Canadian Olympian and former 90-point NHL scorer, hasn’t scored a goal in 12 games, with just two since Oct. 29. The seven-year NHL veteran also has dropped to a minus-19 rating.
“I think he’s pressing,” Boudreau said. “I thought he worked really hard tonight. You could see the strain a little bit on his face. He knows he hasn’t been scoring. He knows he’s the captain, and he puts a little bit too much pressure on himself. I told him to not worry about that. Just worry about his game and not anybody else’s at this stage.”
Perry scored his 15th goal just 2:37 in, ending a four-game pointless streak when Andrew Cogliano collected a turnover and fed him in front of the net.
The reigning NHL MVP is only slightly off the pace he set during his 50-goal campaign last season, when Perry scored his 15th goal on Dec. 12. He had 20 in early January last season before scoring 20 more goals in the Ducks’ final 22 games.
Hiller stopped 33 shots for Anaheim, which didn’t get a noticeable boost from left wing Jason Blake’s return from a 34-game injury absence.
Blake hadn’t played since Oct. 14, when Sharks defenceman Brent Burns’ skate inadvertently caused severe tendon damage in the 38-year-old veteran’s left arm late in Anaheim’s third game of the season. The Ducks’ season unravelled shortly after the second-line forward underwent surgery, and two Anaheim coaches have been forced to mix and match left wings with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.
NOTES: Sharks D Colin White missed his third straight game with an undisclosed lower body injury. … Sharks C Patrick Marleau’s secondary assist on Pavelski’s goal was his first point in four games against Anaheim this season.