Four in a row for the Anaheim Ducks. Would it be five in a row against a struggling New York Islanders team, who had lost seven straight?
Despite being outshot and outplayed, the Ducks still managed to pull off a 1-0 win giving them five straight wins and much needed points in the standings. Pretty it was not, but you get two points for a win, no matter how ugly.
The Islanders outshot the Ducks 27-14, holding Anaheim to only one shot on goal in the first period. That shot, courtesy of Saku Koivu, did not come until 18:14 had elapsed.
Koivu's second shot of the game was the most important shot. Cam Fowler placed the puck perfectly on Koivu's stick and all Koivu had to do was shoot it up and over Dwayne Roloson at 3:40 of the third period. Roloson was a familiar face, having spent plenty of time in Edmonton's net.
Koivu has finally warmed up as a Duck and now has a four game point streak with four goals and six points in that time period. Coincidentally, it was Koivu who scored the OT-winning goal (ninth of his career) the last time the Islanders visited Honda Center on March 19, 2010, in a 5-4 victory.
"It's never easy to play back-to-backs, especially when the other team had a couple of days off," said Koivu after the game. "They were coming hard at us in the first period. You were able to tell that we didn't have the jump that we usually have. You’re going to have nights where you’re not going to feel your best. Good teams find ways to win these games. We did tonight."
They may not have had the jump or the energy, but they had the determination.
One person who did have some jump in their step was defenseman Luca Sbisa. Just recalled from Syracuse this morning (as in 1:00 in the morning), Sbisa added a spark and physicality to the blue line and earned the third star of the game for his efforts.
Sbisa did not have a great training camp and seemed to vanish in games earlier this season before being sent down to the AHL. His time there was well spent and he acknowledged that he had been "overthinking" his game, rather than just going out and enjoying playing.
If he continues to play at that level, Sbisa will stay a lot longer in Anaheim.
Coach Randy Carlyle knew it was not going to be an easy game after the emotion filled nail-biters the past two efforts.
We knew it was going to be tough," Carlyle acknowledged. "We were playing a young, energized Islander team. Having played last night in San Jose, we knew it would be a tough struggle. These are the type of games that you almost have to win. In our situation, we couldn’t accept anything other than a win. That was our focus."
Anaheim will now focus on the next one - another Pacific Division rival, Dallas, comes to town on Friday.
In other notes: Danny Syvret was sent to Syracuse, along with Dan Sexton and Matt Beleskey. Both Sexton and Beleskey were taken off IR - Sexton for a broken nose and Beleskey for a concussion. This leaves Andy Sutton (broken thumb), Kyle Chipchura (concussion), Joffrey Lupul (back) and Sheldon Brookbank (strained hamstring) as the remaining wounded in Anaheim.