It took a late Rickard Rakell finish of a beautiful passing play to finally snap a tie that held for nearly 30 minutes, but it proved to be all the Ducks needed to finish off the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night at Honda Center.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said it best: "It was a pretty sloppy game, but it was decided with a beautiful goal."
Ironically, on a night when passing was the furthest thing from the best part of Anaheim's game, it was a seemingly effortless tic-tac-toe play between Rakell and linemates Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon that broke a 1-1 tie with 6:19 to play. The line which saw its first appearance in the Sunday loss against the Los Angeles Kings looked at the very least concerning for the visitors all night long, if not downright dominant on certain shifts.
Chris Stewart opened the scoring for Anaheim in the first period, getting a slight tip on a seeing-eye shot from Shea Theodore. The goal was initially awarded as Theodore's second of his career, but the goal was changed at the first intermission to the surprise of nobody who saw Stewart's reaction and celebration to the goal.
Jarret Stoll opened the scoring in favor of the visitors just 6:48 into the game after a horrible turnover from Rakell in his own defensive end left the defense stranded and Gibson helpless to stop a low wrist shot from between the tops of the faceoff circles. It was an early blow for the Ducks who had their choke-out defensive style on display all night long.
"We're trying to push forward and get as many points as we can, and it starts with defensive hockey," Ryan Getzlaf said in a post-game interview. Indeed the Ducks demonstrated their newfound mindset all night long, but ultimately were out-shot-attempted at 5-on-5 hockey for the second straight game.
Minnesota was not without their chances either, as they out-chanced Anaheim by a 25 to 21 margin on the evening. The Ducks also did little to help themselves by turning the puck over 18 times in the contest to just 14 for the Wild.
The third period, which provided little in the way of attacking posture by the home squad, broke open late with Rakell's goal, and the home crowd got one final cheer in when Jakob Silfverberg sent the puck sailing into the empty net from just inside the center red line with 49 seconds remaining.
The win sends the Ducks to 20-18-7 on the season, good for 47 points and puts them two points behind the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes who sit tied for the final Pacific Division playoff spot. The Ducks have two games in hand on the Canadian squad.
The Wild, whose offensive woes continue, have now scored just six goals in their last six contests and now stand just one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the number-one Wild Card position. They fall to 11 points behind the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Central Division.
Anaheim now travels east for a brief three-game road trip that begins on Friday, January 22nd with the league-leading Washington Capitals. That game will begin at 4:00pm.