ANAHEIM, Calif. – After scoring two goals in the first 8 1/2 minutes, Corey Perry spent his evening tantalizingly close to his first career hat trick.
Although Perry still can’t get that elusive third goal, he settled for an Anaheim Ducks win on Wednesday night.
Ryan Carter also scored for the Ducks, and Jonas Hiller made 32 saves in a 3-2 victory over the struggling Minnesota Wild.
After a middling start to the season, Anaheim returned from a four-game trip to open a six-game homestand with a 35-shot performance led by Perry, who scored two slick goals on early turnovers. The high-scoring forward has seven points in Anaheim’s six games.
Perry has 95 career goals, and he doesn’t need anybody to remind him that he doesn’t have an NHL hat trick – although his teammates undoubtedly let him know. Coach Randy Carlyle even tried to get him out there for a cheap score in the final seconds with Minnesota’s goalie pulled, but he couldn’t get Teemu Selanne off the ice.
“I was just trying to shoot the puck and not think about it too much,” Perry said. “If it ever happens, it happens. Not too much I can do about it.”
Carlyle believes Perry’s fast start is a direct result of his busy off-season.
“It’s a credit to Corey because of the work he put in preparing for the Team Canada trials,” Carlyle said. “Preparing himself earlier for the season is paying dividends.”
Niklas Backstrom stopped 32 shots, and Eric Belanger scored for the Wild, who dropped to 1-4-0 with four road losses under new coach Todd Richards. Andrew Brunette added his team-leading fourth goal of the season with 9.1 seconds to play while Backstrom was pulled.
Minnesota still has two games left on its longest trip of the season. Though the Wild’s new offensive look makes them more exciting than former coach Jacques Lemaire’s teams, it wasn’t enough to beat Anaheim.
“I expected them to come out hard,” Richards said. “Even reading in the paper about them coming off of a 3-0 loss in New York, and with what happened the last time we played them, we kind of expected that. But we should have a lot of desperation and some urgency in our game, being 1-3 and now 1-4. So we should have come out equally as hard, and we didn’t. … The first period, not everybody on the team was ready to compete.”
Minnesota earned its only win of the season over the Ducks at home last week in overtime, but Anaheim rebounded from a shutout loss to the Rangers on Sunday with solid defence in front of Hiller. The young Swiss goalie still is splitting starts with Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the Ducks’ tandem, but Hiller has looked sharp while winning three straight starts in his first season after leading Anaheim to the second round of the playoffs.
“We can be proud of the way we played,” Hiller said. “We played pretty solid all over the ice, and we didn’t back down much in the third period.”
Anaheim snapped a three-game losing streak against Minnesota.
The Ducks scored just 1:41 into the game when Wild defenceman Shane Hnidy’s sloppy clearing attempt hit Perry and dropped at his skates, allowing him to move in unimpeded for a backhand goal. A few minutes later, poor defensive spacing by Minnesota left Perry alone in the crease for an easy shot past Backstrom.
Late in the second period, another Minnesota turnover left the puck to Mike Brown, whose rebound was swatted home by Carter for his first point of the season.
“We need to go out there and make a team earn it,” Backstrom said. “Right now it seems like it’s too easy for the other team. We need to play our basic game. Now, it seems like we’re only doing it for 20 or 30 minutes, or every other shift. We need to play the whole game like we played the second period.”
The Wild finally beat Hiller 1:24 later when Belanger intercepted Luca Sbisa’s neutral-zone pass and slid through the crease for a slick shot.
NOTES: Minnesota LW Petr Sykora was scratched because of a groin injury. … With Cal Clutterbuck (ankle) also out of Minnesota’s lineup, C Andy Hilbert and C Nathan Smith made their Wild debuts after being recalled from the minors Monday. … The Ducks won’t go further east than Phoenix for the next four weeks, with nine of their next 10 games at home. … Anaheim D James Wisniewski missed his second straight game because of a sprained shoulder. … Ducks C Saku Koivu and Wild C Mikko Koivu faced each other in the regular season for the fifth time.