ANAHEIM, Calif. – The common thinking regarding the Hart Trophy is that it typically goes to a player on a first-place team.
But perhaps some type of scale needs be invented to determine exactly how much a player has carried his team, and in that aspect Corey Perry has seemingly broken the dial.
With the Ducks desperately trying to hold on to at least the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoff race, Perry scored three goals to reach an NHL-leading 50 on Wednesday night to lead Anaheim to a 6-2 victory that cooled off the San Jose Sharks in front of 15,649 at Honda Center.
Perry has downplayed his remarkable run, but he couldn’t help smile when asked about hitting the magical 50 mark.
"It's pretty exciting," Perry said. "You think back to the whole season and what you have accomplished and all the help you get from teammates. To do it in front of your own fans and family in town for the game, it's nice to get that done.
"Fifty is a huge number. Everybody talks about it. There's not a whole lot of people that get to do that and be in that category. It hasn't really sunk in. I don't think it will until it's all said and done and summertime comes."
The Ducks can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a loss by Dallas, but the real buzz on this night was Perry, who gave the Ducks leads of 1-0, 3-0 and 4-1 with plays that exhibited both his soft hands and grittiness around the net.
No.49 came in the second when he got the puck to the left of the goal, drove to the crease and banged in his second effort during a delayed penalty by San Jose.
How much was Perry thinking about 50 at that point?
"It's obviously in the back of your mind," Perry admitted. "You're only human."
Fewer than five minutes later Teemu Selanne obliged him with a pass in front that Perry tapped home during a two-man advantage to trigger a chant of "MVP! MVP! MVP!"
Ducks captain and longtime linemate Ryan Getzlaf said Perry's performance should sway voters for the Hart, particularly given it comes in the thick of a playoff race. Perry's third career hat trick gave him 19 goals in the past 14 games as he has just about singlehandedly carried Anaheim.
"He's proven it time and time again that he can play in those big games and have results," Getzlaf said. "I think our whole group tonight can take a big step from that."
Perry joined Selanne and Paul Kariya as the only players in franchise history to reach 50 goals, and he has the most by a Ducks player since Selanne had 52 in 1997-98.
When Perry scored his 40th on March 23, reaching the 50-goal plateau wasn't even on his mind.
"Not really," said Perry, whose previous career high was 32. "I thought 40 might be a stretch and then all of a sudden they kept coming. Like I said, I've got to give a lot of credit to the guys I'm playing with."
San Jose saw its four-game winning streak snapped and suffered only its fifth regulation loss since Jan.13. The Sharks had outscored their opponents, 20-4, during that four-game streak but gave up four in a wildly undisciplined second period in which it gave Anaheim five power plays.
"Usually, we're pretty disciplined all of the time, but tonight was kind of uncharacteristic of us," said San Jose captain Joe Thornton, who remains one point short of 1,000. "We just need to clear our minds and get ready for Phoenix on Friday. Sometimes you just lose focus a little bit."
Niittymaki was given his first start since Jan.13 as coach Todd McLellan wanted to get him into a game environment after he used Antti Niemi for 34 consecutive starts, and Niittymaki probably got more action than he would have liked because of his team's penalties.
"I wish our guys would have given him a better effort, better support, whether it's offensively or, for sure, defensively," McLellan said.
Selanne converted Mitchell's infraction for a 5-1 lead when Cam Fowler’s pass glanced off his skate and into the goal. It was Selanne's 29th goal this season.
Jason Blake added to the rout when he finished a 2-on-none with Saku Koivu with Vlasic in the box for roughing as Anaheim came out of the second with a 6-1 lead.
McLellan was ready to flush the game away.
"This is not a good thing for our team, but I have a ton of confidence in that group in there," he said.
The one-sided outcome stood in contrast to last Saturday's nasty affair in which San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray knocked Lubomir Visnovsky out of the game with a hit to send the sides chirping at each other in the following days.
There were some minor skirmishes early and a brief fight between Murray and Brad Winchester, and the game unfolded just like last Saturday as the Ducks took a 2-0 lead on Fowler's power-play goal.
Anaheim goalie Ray Emery left the game in the second period. The Ducks announced it was a minor injury and that he was eligible to return, but Dan Ellis finished the game.
San Jose's Ryane Clowe sat out with a lower body injury.
Backhand shot -