The Ducks were on a three-game winning streak and still wanted to keep their infinitesimal glimmer of a playoff chance alive. The Canucks were trounced and trampled 8-3by the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. You can be sure they did not want a repeat performance against the Ducks on Friday night.
Things were much closer between the two teams in a fast and furious paced contest. In the end, it was the Canucks that edged out the Ducks with a 5-4 shootout victory. Anaheim earned a point, but they needed both of them.
As they did in the last game, the line of Saku Koivu, Jason Blake and Teemu Selanne remained hot. All three past winners of the Masterton trophy contributed to the scoresheet once again.
Koivu lifted a shot up and over Andrew Raycroft at 3:01 of the second period to get the Ducks on the board. Even though Michael Grabner tied up the game at 10:07, placing a nice shot behind Curtis McElhinney, getting his fourth start in a row, the Ducks persisted.
A fortuitous 5 on 3 opportunity presented itself to the Ducks and they seemed happy to take advantage. Selanne scored goal #602 at 14:31 with both Alexander Burrows and Jannik Hansen in the box, Hansen there four minutes for high sticking. The goal put Selanne in sole possession of 17th on the all-time goal list, moving ahead of fellow Finn, Jari Kurri.
"I'd rather not pass him and have these points to give us still a chance," said Selanne, acknowledging the bittersweet milestone. "What happened earlier in the season put us behind the eight ball. In October, November, we lost games that we were not supposed to lose. Those points are killing us now."
The Ducks could not add to the lead on the extended power play time, even though they spent most of the time in the Canucks end. They still took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission, but would regret not having more of a cushion.
The lead was short lived as Grabner roofed another beauty behind McElhinney just 1:22 into the third period. Hats off to the youngster at 3:55 when he tipped in a Christian Ehrhoff's blue line shot for his first career hat trick. The Canuck fan filled lower bowl happily tossed a few chapeaus onto the ice to celebrate the first Vancouver lead of the game.
"I've been here for a few games now," said Grabner, who played in just his 17th game this season. "I've had a lot of chances and didn't get one in, so it's nice to get the first couple out of the way."
Selanne's second power play goal of the evening at 9:20 tied up the game again. It also moved Selanne to #9 all-time on the power play goals list ahead of Mike Gartner with 218 goals. More than a third of Selanne's goals have been with the man advantage.
The back and forth scoring continued with someone not named Grabner putting the Canucks ahead once more at 13:33. Hansen finished off the rebound of Ehrhoff's shot that McElhinney could not control.
Time was winding down, but the tired Canucks took another penalty late. The Ducks took a time out, then pulled McElhinney to make it 6 on 4. It only took :15 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity before Koivu got his second goal of the game at 18:36.
Overtime saw chances on both sides, including to glorious post shots by the Canucks. Anaheim just could not get it done in the shootout. Corey Perry scored on his attempt, but McElhinney, in his first shootout, was unable to stop Kyle Wellwood and Pavol Demitra. Andrew Raycroft made two great stops on Selanne and Bobby Ryan, and the that was it. Game over.
"One is good, but we were going for two (points)," said Troy Bodie after the game. "We know we're still in the hunt."
After the game, McElhinney spent a long time sitting in his stall, deep in thought and clearly feeling the weight of the Ducks burden upon his shoulders. He made 36 saves in another impressive performance, but none of that seemed to matter to him. In his eyes, he was responsible for the loss and seemed unable to forgive himself for his lack of perfection. One wanted to remind him that in the end, it really is just a game.
So the Ducks wend their way up the freeway to have a final two games in a home and home series with the Kings. The Kings want to solidify a playoff spot and the Ducks would enjoy nothing more than spoiling those attempts and keeping their own dimming hopes alive.
In other notes: Brendan Mikkelson was sent back to the Toronto Marlies earlier today. Ryan Getzlaf missed his fourth game since reinjuring his ankle. Jonas Hiller missed his third game with back spasms. James Wisniewski served the final game of his eight-game suspension. He is eligible to return on Saturday night against the Kings.