Anaheim, who started the season well and then did their best impression of a skydiver without a parachute, have figured out where the ripcord is located.
Going 14-3-3 since January 1 (now that's keeping your resolutions!), the Ducks are now at the .500 mark (24-24-9) and only six points out of a playoff spot. On January 6, they were 20 points out. How on earth has this team been able to make up that kind of ground in an NHL that is not conducive to such comebacks?
The answer is one win at a time.
As it was in Minnesota, the Ducks fell behind early in the first period. Jordan Staal took advantage of a 2 on 1 and placed the puck in the top corner of the net at 6:27. Jonas Hiller, who was in net for the second night in a row, kept the Ducks, who were not sharp, in the game for the remainder of the period.
Anaheim woke up in the second period and did a much better job of getting scoring chances. Finally, with less than a minute to go, Corey Perry got one by Marc-Andre Fleury and the game was tied.
Both sides were feeling testy in the third period and it was clear that both teams wanted a win.
In the end, it was Teemu Selanne who won it for the Ducks. At the end of an overly long shift, Matt Beleskey was able to get the puck out of the Ducks zone and over to Selanne. For a 41 year old, he sure didn't look tired. With a burst of speed Selanne came in forehand, backhand and made goal #656 of his career look really easy at 7:51.
"I don't know the length of that shift – it might have gotten closer to a minute's length," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. "They were able to get a turnover, and (Matt) Niskanen was gassed from the shift. They got an opportunity with speed and, with Selanne, we've seen that one before."
With Selanne, it doesn't matter how many times you have seen it. It looks mighty pretty every single time!
A late penalty by former Duck, Chris Kunitz, helped the Ducks kill off time on the clock. An empty net in Pittsburgh's end did not give the Penguins any advantage either and the Ducks won another road game.
"I was pretty proud of our guys to show that," said Ryan Getzlaf. "It's not an easy thing when you're on this long of a road trip and playing back-to-back games and playing in one of the hardest buildings in the League. Everybody wants to bury us and get us out of the way, but the guys are doing a great job of fighting through it."
They have earned seven out of eight points on this road trip and they are halfway through. Next up on the list is the New Jersey Devils, a team that all fans who date back to at least the 2003 season hate.
Go get 'em boys.