Teemu Selanne got the Anaheim Ducks’ only chance in the entire final frame – and as Sharks fans have known for years, the Finnish Flash rarely wastes them. Selanne scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, and the Ducks padded their Pacific Division lead with a 3-2 victory over the frustrated Sharks on Monday night.
Bryzgalov made 40 saves in his first start since Feb. 7 for the Ducks, who moved seven points ahead of San Jose and Dallas by surviving the Sharks, who had a prodigious 42-19 shot advantage – including 18-2 in the third period – and committed just one penalty all night.
Anaheim was tired after beating Colorado on Sunday night, but managed to hold off the Sharks by a whisker.
“The only chance those guys had in the last two periods, and they score,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said, shaking his head. “We played really well. Their goaltender played great, and that’s the difference in the hockey game. To outshoot a team like that and dominate territorial play, and then we make a mistake, and it ends up in the net – I don’t know what to say.”
Anaheim had plenty to say about Bryzgalov’s heroics in his first victory since Jan. 11. Jean-Sebastien Giguere started the Ducks’ last eight games, but Bryzgalov thrived in the surprise assignment from coach Randy Carlyle.
“It was the best game I’ve played all year,” Bryzgalov said. “I was playing and laughing out there. I wasn’t nervous. They kept trying to come down and pressure me, but we were able to defend it.”
Dustin Penner scored two goals in the first period for Anaheim, and Milan Michalek replied with two goals in the second period for San Jose.
The Ducks survived nearly four minutes of short-handed play early in the third, including a two-man disadvantage for 17 seconds. San Jose had several additional chances in the final minutes, including an unobstructed look by captain Patrick Marleau – but it hit Bryzgalov squarely in the chest.
“It’s one game, but it’s like in baseball: You ask a pitcher to go in and get you one, and the goaltender went in and got us one,” Carlyle said.
And after San Jose missed several scoring chances in a flurry, Anaheim scored with a blistering counterattack. Chris Kunitz and Selanne traded the puck on an end-to-end rush before Selanne barely tucked home his 38th goal of the season with 11:41 left.
Selanne, a San Jose favourite during his 2½ seasons in teal, scored his 82nd point in 54 career games against the Sharks with his fast-break goal.
“They were dominating most of the time,” Selanne said. “In the third, they had all the chances. We were lucky to get this one at all. You always begin to think there’s a chance that you’re going to get a chance to score. You just wait for that opportunity.”
The clubs, which meet again Friday in Anaheim, have split the first six meetings of this burgeoning rivalry.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 16 shots for the weary Sharks, who returned early Sunday morning from a tough eight-game road trip. San Jose, which has lost four of six, must face NHL-leading Nashville before heading out on another three-game trip.
The Sharks also lost defenceman Scott Hannan in the first period when he couldn’t play through an undisclosed injury from the road trip.
Joe Thornton had two assists for the Sharks, and Ryan Getzlaf had two for Anaheim. Penner’s goals were the 20th and 21st of his first full NHL season, while Michalek matched his career high from last season with his 17th goal.
“We had a lot of chances, but we couldn’t score,” Michalek said. “They played last night, so we wanted to wear them down, but we couldn’t put it in at the very end.”
San Jose still hopes to have new defenceman Craig Rivet in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against Nashville, if immigration issues can be resolved. The Sharks acquired the 11-year veteran from Montreal on Sunday for defenceman Josh Gorges and a first-round pick.
Notes: Ducks C Todd Marchant missed his fifth straight game with an abdominal strain. … Sharks C Patrick Rissmiller missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury. He has 17 points as a checking forward in his first full NHL campaign. … The Sharks’ only penalty was a holding call against Curtis Brown with 2:14 left in the second period.