Three games blowing two goal leads and three games in a shootout, but against the Minnesota Wild, the Ducks learned their lesson. Instead of screwing up, the top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan led Anaheim to a 6-2 victory that did not let off the gas.
Perry had his first career hat trick. Getzlaf had two goals. Ryan had a single. The Wild could only muster two.
Perry led the way by scoring on the first shift and first shot of the game, just :19 seconds in. It was a sign of things to come.
Brent Burns tied up the game at 6:36. Jonas Hiller was caught on one side of the net and Burns put it in to the right of him. Hiller could not move fast enough to cover the gaping opening in the net.
The game did not remain tied for long. Getzlaf put the Ducks back ahead at 7:08. Bobby Ryan took a couple of Minnesota players crashing behind the net, which left Getzlaf wide open. While the Wild players entangled with Ryan watched helplessly, Getzlaf put the puck behind Niklas Backstrom.
The Wild, who defeated the Los Angeles Kings in overtime the night before, started the second period on the wrong foot. With Marek Zidlicky in the box for hooking, the Wild then proceeded to get caught with too many men on the ice just :39 seconds later.
With a gloriously long 5 on 3 opportunity, Getzlaf got his second goal of the game at 2:51.
The Ducks took a couple of successive penalties of their own and the Wild capitalized with Zidlicky bringing the team back within a goal at 9:49. That was as close as the Wild got.
Another penalty, Andreas Lilja's second of the game, seemed to give Minnesota a little needed momentum. And then it turned around and the Wild were unable to recover.
Perry stole the puck during the penalty kill and took off to the Minnesota end, just barely ahead of the Wild defenders. Cam Barker had no choice but to hook Perry, which led to a penalty shot. Perry made it look easy and converted at 14:19, giving the Ducks a 4-2 lead with a short-handed penalty shot goal.
It got stranger. As the period progressed, Ryan lost his stick in a scrum to Mikko Koivu. Ryan, who felt there should have been a holding the stick penalty, took the available stick on the ice - Koivu's. Then he proceeded to score with it at 17:26 and appeared to show Koivu the stick and thanked him for the use of it.
Some confusion reigned at that point. Was it a valid goal because Ryan had scored with Koivu's stick? It was determined that had Ryan's stick broken, he would not have been able to use Koivu's stick (unless that Koivu happened to be Saku, who was out with the flu anyway.) The circumstances did not overrule the use of the opposing team stick and the goal stood. Wings at Hooters!
"Same number, different hands," explained the right shooting Ryan after the game. "There was some kind of tangle-up in the corner. I looked down and saw my own stick, and I knew I wasn't holding it, so I wasn't quite sure what to do. Then he started skating off with it, so I just picked up the first thing that was there, and it was his. It was just very lucky that there was another one falling at my feet, and then the puck came right to me. It's been a while, so I'll take them any way they can come right now. I was even thinking about getting a couple of left-handed sticks and finish it out."
There was no need for that.
The Wild just looked like a tired team that had no gas left in the tank from that point on. A careless high sticking penalty on Nick Schultz gave the Ducks a four minute power play that transferred over to the third period. There was no question about Schultz' penalty, which knocked the helmet right off of Perry. It left him with a gash in his right cheek and swelling that required him to keep an ice pack on it every time he got to the bench.
The Wild had enough energy to kill the penalty, but not enough to avoid staying out of the penalty box. Cal Clutterbuck (a man who can grow an impressive mustache) was sent to the box, followed by Jared Spurgeon with less than 5:30 minutes to go. You can't kill all of them, especially when you are that tired, and more so playing down a man.
Perry made it a hat trick at 15:47, his first career hat trick and the 10th Duck in franchise history to complete the feat. It was Perry's 401st game.
"It's been a long time coming," said Perry after the game. "Before the power play, I asked Getz who was going to get it. And he said: `It doesn't matter, as long as somebody does.' Neither one of us had had one, so it's a special moment and something that I won't forget."
While in the previous three games the Ducks had blown leads, this time they made sure the lead stuck. The Wild had only one shot on goal in the first 15 minutes of the period. They summoned enough energy for three more to end the period, but Anaheim kept pressing and did not let up.
It was a good win to set them off on a seven game road trip with the right momentum.
In other notes: Teemu Selanne missed another game with a groin strain and Saku Koivu was out with the flu. Koivu's absence forced a bit of line shuffling by coach Randy Carlyle, who used Andy Sutton as a forward on the fourth line, in addition to using him as a defenseman in certain situations. Aaron Voros will miss 3 - 4 weeks with his broken orbital bone, but will not require surgery.