ANAHEIM, Calif. – Chris Pronger’s untimely eight-game suspension began with a pair of timely goals by Rob Niedermayer and a solid job by Mathieu Schneider, Pronger’s fill-in as point man on the power play.
Niedermayer broke open a tie game with his 12th career two-goal effort, and the Anaheim Ducks beat the St. Louis Blues 5-2 on Saturday night to extend their club-record home winning streak to nine games. Schneider had a goal and two assists, one of them on Teemu Selanne’s power-play goal.
Pronger, a five-time all-star defenceman, was suspended earlier in the day by the NHL for stomping on the leg of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler during Wednesday’s 4-1 victory. He will forfeit US$609,756.08 in salary during his absence.
“We’ve got our hands full,” Schneider said. “Obviously we’re short-handed without Prongs, but we’ve got to find ways to get it done. And if it’s relying a little bit more on our goaltending at certain times and getting goals from different players to make up for it, that’s what has to happen.”
Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 38 saves, helping the Ducks reach the 90-point mark for the third straight year and fourth time in franchise history. They are 25-8-4 at Honda Center, one win shy of the club record for home wins set in 2005-06 and equalled last season.
“If it wasn’t for our home record, we wouldn’t be sitting where we are right now,” Niedermayer said after the Ducks jumped over Dallas and regained fourth place in the Western Conference, which would give them home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Jamal Mayers and defenceman Jeff Woywitka scored for the Blues, who have won only one of their last 12 and have the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got 10 games left, and obviously we are out of it,” goaltender Manny Legace said. “We’ve just got to have an attitude to go in and spoil some team’s home-ice (advantage). That’s got to be our goal. We might as well make it fun.”
St. Louis has dropped 10 consecutive contests on the road, tying the club mark set in 1981-82 and equalled two seasons ago. Three of the losses during this drought were in overtime. The Blues have three stops left on their franchise-record nine-game trip.
“It’s a joke is what it is,” Erik Johnson said. “This is just unacceptable, what we’re going through right now. There’s too much character in this room to have this happen. It’s really tough to bear.”
Anaheim took the lead for the third and final time with 15:52 remaining. Niedermayer stripped Matt Walker of the puck in the neutral zone, swooped in on Legace and took a short wrist shot that banked in off the goalie’s right arm. He added his eighth of the season with 8:51 to play.
“We had a couple of timely goals and we were able to stay on top and not have to play from behind,” Schneider said. “Jiggy also made some great saves. If it wasn’t for his performance, we could have been in a much tougher spot.”
Ryan Getzlaf ended the scoring with his 23rd goal, as Legace was trapped halfway between the net and the St. Louis bench after coach Andy Murray pulled his goaltender in the final 2 minutes for an extra attacker.
The Ducks were 0-for-15 on the power play against St. Louis this season until Selanne put them ahead 2-1 at 15:10 of the second period. Cam Janssen was serving an interference penalty when Schneider took a 50-foot slap shot that glanced off the skate of St. Louis defenceman Barret Jackman and right to a wide-open Selanne at the left of the net.
The goal was Selanne’s eighth this season and 548th of his career, tying Michel Goulet for 24th place on the NHL’s career list and putting him one behind Ron Francis.
Woywitka tied it at 2 just 54 seconds after the second intermission, snapping a 27-game goal drought with his first since March 17, 2007.
Schneider opened the scoring with his 10th goal 53 seconds before the first intermission, completing an odd-man rush with a short back-hander past Legace’s glove after Selanne found him cruising down the middle of the ice.
The Blues tied it at 1:57 of the second. Giguere left a bad rebound after dropping to his knees to stop Jay McClement’s wrist shot from the right point, and Mayers banged it home for his 10th goal of the season and first in 19 games.
Notes: Pronger was suspended five times while he was with St. Louis, including a one-game ban for kicking Calgary’s Ville Nieminen. That one was handed down by the Ducks’ current GM, Brian Burke. … Getzlaf’s goal was his first in nine career games against St. Louis, the only Western Conference opponent he hadn’t scored against. … The Ducks are 19-9-4 in the 32 games Doug Weight has played for them, following the trade that sent Andy McDonald to St. Louis on Dec. 14. The Blues are 12-20-7 with McDonald in the lineup.