ANAHEIM, Calif. – Saku Koivu had Brian Rafalski on his hip, two more Red Wings within slashing distance and goalie Jimmy Howard right on top of the puck – and Finland’s Olympic captain still managed to score a short-handed goal.
Not many of Koivu’s previous 199 career goals required this much effort, yet his extra oomph put the Anaheim Ducks on a roll toward an important victory. Koivu scored his 200th goal, Jonas Hiller made 38 saves and the Ducks ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over Detroit on Tuesday night.
With star centre Ryan Getzlaf back in the lineup, Anaheim took charge early when Koivu reached his latest career milestone with a remarkable short-handed effort in the first period. After intercepting a mid-ice pass, Koivu broke loose from the backcheckers, fired a shot at Howard and then dug out the rebound from underneath the goalie.
It was the ninth goal of the longtime Montreal captain’s debut season with the Ducks – and his first short-handed goal in more than three years.
“You’ve got to fight through those kinds of things,” Koivu said. “I just kept going to the net and fighting, and I got rewarded. That’s the way we have to look at the game right now. We have to win shift after shift, period after period. We realize the situation we’re in.”
Matt Beleskey scored his first NHL goal and Corey Perry ended a 10-game goal drought with a late score for the last-place Ducks, who struggled while playing 10 of their past 12 games on the road. Anaheim has earned points in nine of 10 home games, and coach Randy Carlyle hoped the victory would be a springboard for an inconsistent club.
“That’s the inspiration you hope goes through your hockey club,” Carlyle said of Koivu’s goal. “You could feel it on the bench. It was a great start for your group, especially playing the Detroit Red Wings. His will outdid their skill in a couple of situations early.”
Valtteri Filppula scored on a rebound with 8:57 left to end Hiller’s bid for his sixth career shutout, but Perry replied with 6:31 to play. Anaheim’s Kyle Chipchura scored an empty-net goal that travelled nearly the entire length of the rink with 7.8 seconds left.
Howard stopped 31 shots for the Red Wings after beating Anaheim twice earlier this season at Joe Louis Arena in this rematch of an outstanding post-season series. Anaheim stretched the eventual Western Conference champions to seven games in the second round of last season’s playoffs after knocking off top-seeded San Jose.
“We weren’t prepared to play, for whatever reason,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “It was our worst game in a while. We let ourselves down here. I don’t think you can even find out how good you can be unless you play as hard as you’re capable of playing, and we didn’t do that tonight. Too many turnovers and poor execution, especially early.”
The Red Wings didn’t have Henrik Zetterberg or Dan Cleary, who are both close to returning from separated shoulders. Both hope to play Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Getzlaf returned from a four-game absence caused by a self-inflicted skate cut on his right knee, and the Ducks responded with one of their best offensive games in several weeks.
Beleskey scored moments after Koivu’s goal, firing home a rebound of Sheldon Brookbank’s wide shot. The 21-year-old rookie forward had three assists this season, but finally scored a goal in his 24th career game.
“It’s disappointing, especially the way we came out in the first period,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We got it going in the second, but we were playing from behind, playing catch-up hockey. They were playing really well in their own zone and pushing us to the outside when we gained entry into their zone. We had some shots, but most of them were coming from the outside.”
Anaheim’s defence mostly kept Detroit’s forwards out of prime scoring positions through a scoreless second period and well into the third before Filppula backhanded in a rebound for his first goal since Oct. 17. The Finnish Olympian missed 26 games because of a broken wrist before returning Dec. 26.
Getzlaf then stole a puck near Detroit’s net, and Perry eventually found it for his 17th goal.
NOTES: Koivu’s previous short-handed goal was scored on Dec. 14, 2006. … Ducks F Teemu Selanne missed his 14th straight game, but hopes to return from a broken hand later this week. The Finnish Olympian has been out since Dec. 3. … Anaheim reassigned C MacGregor Sharp to the AHL. He is scoreless in eight games with the Ducks this season. … A pre-game moment of silence was held for Los Angeles Angels broadcaster Rory Markas, who died Monday at 54.