The Anaheim Ducks peppered the Edmonton Oilers’ goalie for a good 30 minutes, yet could not build on a one-goal lead. Then, 36-year-old Radek Dvorak restored order with his second goal to lead the Ducks to a 2-1 win Monday at Honda Center.
Dvorak topped a terrific night when he chipped in a rebound, end over end, at 7:48. He also scored an easy goal in the first as the Ducks moved to three points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for the top seed in the Western Conference in their third game without captain Ryan Getzlaf, who is day-to-day with a leg injury.
“It was a great play by our whole line,” said Dvorak, who plays with Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik. “I just happened to be in a good spot. We were putting pucks on the net, and he was leaving nice big rebounds. Like I said, I was just in the right spot in the right time.”
That could be said in general about Dvorak, a surprise waiver-wire pickup on March 26. He has three goals in his past three games, put six shots on goal and, at one point, outraced 19-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the ice on an icing play.
“It’s been nice … I’m very glad and I’m very happy for every day, every practice with these guys,” Dvorak said. “I knew I was coming to one of the best teams in the League. It’s just a great feeling. After I was playing in Switzerland, I wasn’t expecting a phone call but I did, and I’m very glad I can be here and play with these guys.”
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said Getzlaf wanted to play but he held him out. Was it the right decision?
“Now that we were successful, it was,” Boudreau said. “I might have been kicking myself with some of the decisions that I made if we didn’t win.”
Boudreau expects Getzlaf to play Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche.
Edmonton’s outlook isn’t so sunny. It finished 1-3 on its road trip and continued to lose a grip on its Stanley Cup Playoffs aspirations as it sits four points out of eighth place in the Western Conference with nine games remaining, although it plays a majority of those at home. The Oilers have been outscored 10-2 in their past three games after it scored 25 goals in its previous six contests.
“It looks really hard from here on in,” Taylor Hall said in a quiet locker room. “We really had to. Look how tough of a spot we’re in now. Three games ago we were right there, and now we’re a ways back. It’s going to take a lot for our group, and we’re going to have to stay motivated. You never know what can happen, but definitely tonight was one we had to win.”
Schultz, who was selected by the Ducks in the second round (No. 43) at the 2008 NHL Draft, played his first game in Anaheim since he declined to sign with the Ducks last spring before signing a free-agent deal with the Oilers this past summer. He was booed every time he touched the puck and fans held signs that read “Judas Schultz” and “We’re Better Off Without You.”
Schultz had a golden chance to tie it with fewer than two minutes remaining, when he was stopped in the slot by Jonas Hiller.
Fans mistakenly booed Nick Schultz, too, and it was Nick Schultz who ironically gave them good reason to boo when his innocent shot from nearly the left wall floated over Hiller’s right shoulder to force a 1-1 tie 1:12 into the third.
Dvorak provided the first score with a backhand into an open net at 17:21 of the first. Ben Lovejoy’s shot hit traffic and the loose puck found Dvorak, who recorded his 20th multi-goal game and first since Oct.14, 2010.
“I was really surprised to see that he didn’t get a job anywhere when the lockout ended,” Koivu said. “When you can get add a guy like that and not lose an asset, at that point of the season it’s huge. He’s a real positive character. He knew his role when he came in here … when he can chip in goals like that, it makes a huge difference for your team.”
Anaheim outshot Edmonton, 26-3, from late in the first period through the second period, but got nothing out of it. It outshot Edmonton 20-0 at one point and got three power plays in the second period alone.
“We just lost our pace completely through that,” Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger said. “Our defensemen, coming out of those PKs, couldn’t jump up in the play. We weren’t getting through the neutral zone as efficiently as before … we attempted to get back in it, but just a very experienced Anaheim team. We had one bad breakdown in the D-zone and they punished us. It’s a painful loss.”
Boudreau had said he addressed a letdown with his team because the Ducks were coming off an intense win against the rival Los Angeles Kings. But the Ducks didn’t look engaged at the start. Edmonton outshot them, 11-2, through the first 13 minutes before Anaheim woke up and outshot the Oilers, 13-0, the rest of the period.