ANAHEIM, Calif. – Teemu Selanne probably regretted returning to play another year for most of the first three miserable months of the Anaheim Ducks’ season.
Selanne and his decision are looking better every day—and so are his surging Ducks.
Selanne scored a power-play goal and had an assist to move into 20th place on the NHL’s career scoring list, and Anaheim kept rolling in its return from an eight-game road trip, beating the slumping Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 Sunday night.
Jonas Hiller made 18 saves in his 21st consecutive start for the Ducks, who won for the ninth time in 12 games during their improbable playoff push. Andrew Cogliano scored his first goal of February for the Ducks, and Sheldon Brookbank also scored as Anaheim avoided a four-game season sweep by Chicago.
After falling 20 points out of eighth place in the West during an awful start, Anaheim has been the NHL’s best team since Jan. 1, going 17-4-4 for a league-high 38 points.
“After 15 days on the road, it’s never easy to come back,” Selanne said. “The tank was pretty empty, but I was very happy with how we played, especially the last two periods. That’s a good feeling. We just keep battling.”
Anaheim got just two days off following the longest continuous road trip in franchise history before starting a key stretch of five games in seven days. The Ducks are just six points out of playoff position—but still in 13th place in the Western Conference standings.
“We take every win we can get right now, (but) nobody seems to want to lose that is going for the playoffs in the West,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, the architect of Anaheim’s turnaround. “We’re going to have to try to do it ourselves. … We were pretty sluggish in the first period. That’s common when you come off a long road trip. I thought we got our legs, and we were pretty good in the second and third.”
Selanne inched up the NHL scoring list by setting up Brookbank’s goal in the second period before scoring his 21st of the season from a sharp angle during a two-man advantage in the third. The 41-year-old Finnish Flash caught and passed Luc Robitaille with 1,395 points, and his 246th career power-play goal put him one behind Robitaille for fourth in league history.
Selanne is the second-oldest player in NHL history to score at least 21 goals in a season, trailing only Gordie Howe, who did it twice after his 41st birthday.
Patrick Kane ended the Blackhawks’ monthlong 0-for-39 power-play drought with a first-period goal, and Ray Emery stopped 35 shots against his former Anaheim teammates in Chicago’s third consecutive loss.
The Blackhawks have lost 12 of 16 overall, yet still sit comfortably in sixth place in the West, nine points ahead of Anaheim.
“It seems like sometimes when we get the lead, we’re kind of satisfied with that,” said Kane, who scored the Blackhawks’ first power-play goal since Jan. 24. “But we definitely have to keep the pressure on and try to extend the lead. After the first, they pretty much dominated us in the second and third and got a lot more shots than we did.”
The Blackhawks played their fourth straight game without captain Jonathan Toews, who is home in Chicago with an apparent concussion. Coach Joel Quenneville hopes Toews and defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson will return Wednesday against Toronto, but the Blackhawks struggled through a two-game Southern California road trip, losing 4-0 up the I-5 freeway in Los Angeles one night earlier.
“Offensively, we’re not doing much right now,” Kane said. “We need some contributions from everyone. You can always say you need your best players to be your best players. That’s something that we need to get better at, too, including myself.”
Cogliano tied it with 20 seconds left in the period, but only after the referees immediately waved off his goal. Cogliano clearly kicked the puck toward the net with his right skate, but a lengthy video review at the league offices in Toronto revealed Cogliano poked the puck through Emery’s legs with his stick after Emery stopped the kick with his pads.
“I thought he kicked it and then maybe got a piece of it, or just kicked it straight in,” said Emery, who backstopped Anaheim into the playoffs late last season. “Either way, it shouldn’t count. I know they took a tougher look at it, and they must have had some evidence to the contrary. But you’ve got to work past those things.”
Anaheim thoroughly controlled the second period, but wasn’t rewarded until Selanne passed from behind the Chicago net to Brookbank, who fired it off Duncan Keith and past Emery. The goal was Brookbank’s second in five games after playing 167 straight games without a goal.
NOTES: The Blackhawks have never swept Anaheim in a season series. … Longtime Montreal captain Saku Koivu played his 200th game with the Ducks. … Cogliano’s score snapped a 12-game drought. … The biggest regular-season crowd in Honda Center history welcomed the Ducks back from the road, with 17,601 tickets sold in a standing-room-only crowd.