It started off great but ended up another hair-raising finish as the Ducks won their eighth-straight at Honda Center, setting a franchise record.
First Period Recap: The third-jersey-clad Ducks picked up right where they left off on Wednesday, coming out with energy and determination right off the opening draw. Minnesota starter Darcy Kuemper, 22 years old and playing in only his third NHL game, was under siege almost immediately. 49 seconds in, the Ducks almost took the lead on a chance in the crease for Kyle Palmieri and would have had Kuemper not been sharp.
However, his welcome would not last long as the Ducks struck just 4:45 into the game. Corey Perry set up a streaking Ryan Getzlaf who tapped the puck into an empty net on the far post. It's kind of an interesting role-reversal this year; Getzlaf is the one who's shooting and scoring, and Perry's the one doing the setting up. I think the Twins traded spirit animals at some point in the offseason.
The Wild wouldn't go away quietly and they did exert some pressure, but Jonas Hiller stood tall and looked calm and collected. Bobby Ryan took the only penalty of the period, but the Ducks' netminder looked good. His penalty killers gave him support and killed it off without much issue.
Teemu Selanne then buried yet another historic goal in his already legendary career at the 11:21 mark. A beautiful backhander to the top corner beat Kuemper cleanly and sent Selanne past Luc Robatille into 11th place on the all-time scoring list. It's amazing how Teemu can piss off Kings fans even when he's not playing against them.
The period ended with a flurry on both ends, and Perry nearly made it 3-0, being robbed by Kuemper's glove with a strong save-of-the-night bid.
The Ducks outshot the Wild 12-8 in the frame.
Second Period Recap: Minnesota seemed to settle themselves down in the locker room and came out with a new game plan: hit everybody in a black jersey. The physicality ramped up in the second period and the Wild threw 10 hits, bringing the totals to 18-12 Anaheim.
Nonetheless the Ducks stood strong under the mounting pressure from Minnesota and Jonas Hiller made some spectacular stops. However, the Wild rushed out to a 15-6 shot advantage in the period, bringing the game totals to 23-18 Minnesota.
However despite all the positive signs from the Wild, it was the Ducks who scored the only goal of the frame. Darcy Kuemper had one moment in which he showed his true age and experience as he lost sight of a puck that sat loose underneath his pad. Matt Beleskey was Johnny-on-the-spot and pushed it through into the net for his fourth of the season.
Jonas Hiller did have to bail the Ducks out several times and did get a few lucky bounces. Devin Setoguchi lost the handle on a wraparound attempt on an empty net, and Mikko Koivu had a great chance to cut through the goal crease. He ran over Hiller, but nonetheless the puck still stayed out.
Zach Parise was also robbed by a Selkie-quality defensive play from Ryan Getzlaf, who got enough of Parise's stick to negate what would have been a nearly-empty net in a 2-on-1.
Patrick Maroon also made an impact... to Tom Gilbert's ribcage. This caused Zenon Konopka to step in and drop the gloves with him. I got to thinking and I came to this conclusion: I wouldn't want to fight either of these guys. Zenon Konopka is a nasty, aggressive, and proven fighter. Patrick Maroon is a big boy with a lot of muscle. I'll stay on my side of the glass, thank you very much.
It wasn't a brilliant period for the Ducks but they survived and widened the lead.
Third Period Recap: Minnesota finally found the energy they were looking for and immediately got things moving their direction. Just 29 seconds into the period Kyle Brodziak broke Jonas Hiller and got the Wild on the board with a laser-guided slap shot that rang the post and went in. Hiller never saw it thanks to Francios Beauchimin who got stranded in the no-mans-land where he couldn't block the shot but still screened his goaltender.
That slap in the face woke Anaheim up and they responded well, registering the next 10 shots on goal. However, Kuemper was equal to all of them and Minnesota quickly yanked the momentum away from the Ducks again.
The last 10 minutes of the third period gave me even more new grey hair as the Wild threw everything they had at the Anaheim net.
They struck a second time on a Devin Setoguchi blast from the left wing half-boards. I think the shot might have brushed Luca Sbisa on its way past, but I don't think Hiller ever saw it. Either way it went by him clean and it was suddenly 3-2 and squeaky bum time.
The Ducks got complacent and Minnesota started winning every battle for every loose puck. Fortunately Jonas Hiller shook off the two goals he let in and made some stellar saves. Perhaps none more important than several big stops on the penalty kill that ensued from a harshly-called Beauchimin tripping penalty.
It was yet another heart-attack of a game but the Ducks held on to improve their record to 15-3-1, seven points clear of Vancouver in third place, and eight points behind first-overall Chicago. [Ed. Note: This start by the Ducks pushes them past the '06-'07 Cup team (30 points) for the best 19 game start ever (31 points). Not bad, eh? - JN]
The Good: The Kid line of Emerson Etem, Patrick Maroon, and Nick Bonino looked great in the limited ice time they were given. I love Etem's very fine balance between aggression and chaos; he works extremely hard every shift but never seems to be out of position or make a bad play. Jonas Hiller made big saves when he needed to. The Ducks responded well and kept the Wild out for most of the game.
The Bad: The Penalty Kill looked pretty shaky tonight, giving up several risky, unnecessary chances and narrowly escaping a few scrambles. The Ducks seemed to slow down and sit after taking a 3-0 lead and allowed Minnesota to take the momentum of the game back.
The Ugly: The last 10 minutes of this game was an unnecessary heart attack. Had the Ducks not sat back in the second period, the Wild would not have been able to crawl back and make this one considerably scarier than it should have been.
Next Game: Saturday, March 2nd at 6pm at Phoenix Coyotes