ANAHEIM – So how much better will the Anaheim Ducks be once they get fully rested and get their special teams going?
The Ducks will have to wade through the busiest portion of their schedule to answer the first part, but the second part was glimpsed Wednesday night, when Anaheim earned a 5-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at Honda Center.
Coming off an eight-game road trip with the NHL’s 30th-ranked power play, Anaheim found its legs and its special teams with power-play goals from Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler and improved to a team record 6-0-0 at home, the best start at Honda Center in franchise history.
Rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm added his first NHL goal and an assist against a Coyotes team that had its five-game winning streak snapped.
What was working for Anaheim on the power play?
“My God, I don’t know,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s been so long. I was trying to get [Lindholm’s] 6-on-5 [goal] at the end of the second [period] to be called a power play goal, too, but they wouldn’t buy that one. But we moved the puck, and we shot the puck. We had a great net presence.”
Fowler said the team reviewed film from previous seasons and looked at when the power play worked well. The usual remedy of keeping it simple was the answer, and Anaheim can ponder just how much they can build on their NHL-leading 27 points when they get consistent power-play success.
“I think we can be a lot better,” Fowler said. “We’ve found ways to win without scoring, basically, any power-play goals. Special teams has been definitely has been at the top of our list of something we need to correct. We’re still continuing to work on our penalty kill, but it was good to get a couple of power-play goals tonight. They were big goals for us. It’s always good to end a tough streak like that.”
Phoenix lost right wing and leading scorer Radim Vrbata to a lower-body injury. Vrbata took five shifts in the second period and did not return. No update was immediately available.
Anaheim got the go-ahead goal with 1.1 seconds remaining in the second period on an impressive puck-possession sequence during a delayed penalty. The Ducks worked it around to Lindholm up top, and he let go with a slap shot that got a piece of Corey Perry’s stick for a 3-2 lead.
Fowler scored on a knuckleball slap shot in the third period for an insurance goal to give the Ducks their sixth power-play goal of the season, or as many as Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Andrew Cogliano scored an empty-netter while he hobbled to the bench, although Boudreau said Cogliano was okay and that “a goal usually eases a lot of pain.”
Lindholm, 19, scored on a pretty finish off a rush to bring the crowd to its feet. It started when Coyotes captain Shane Doan whiffed on a neutral-zone pass and Devante Smith-Pelly grabbed the puck and got it to Mathieu Perrault, who found a pinching Lindholm for a snap shot that bounced in off Mike Smith’s left side to tie it, 1-1.
Lindholm’s father, Jonas, was in attendance to make the moment more special.
“It’s the first NHL game for him,” Lindholm said. “So, that was probably pretty big. I haven’t talked to him yet.”
Asked what he will do with the puck, Lindholm said, “I’ll probably give it to him.”
The Coyotes got the first goal on Doan’s breakaway as the Ducks got caught on a line change. Michael Stone scored in the second period when he sent a shot-pass to David Moss and one-timed the return feed.
But Phoenix gave Anaheim a 5-on-3 advantage in the second on penalties by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle that shook the Ducks’ out of their power-play woes. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett also felt his team didn’t take care of the puck against a fast-skating Ducks team that was 48 hours removed from an East Coast road trip.
“You can’t win a game in this League if you are going to turn the puck over and be undisciplined,” Tippett said. “We knew it was going to be a hard game. It was a great test for our team to see how we reacted and we didn’t play well enough. We didn’t play disciplined enough to win.”
Phoenix is still 5-3-1 against the Pacific Division and will have a couple of days off to regroup, although that might not be the right word for a team with 24 points.
“I think we've got to get back to work,” Stone said. “I don’t see us hitting any sort of panic button or anything like that. We’ve got to continue working and build our game.”
Phoenix scratched defenseman Derek Morris with an upper-body injury suffered during a 3-2 shootout victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
Perry passed Paul Kariya for sole possession of second in all-time game-winning goals (45) in team history.