ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Two problems have plagued the Anaheim Ducks in the early portion of this season -- a punchless power-play and struggles in the faceoff circle.
One issue was fixed Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center, and it was enough for the Ducks to claim a 3-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild. Anaheim struck twice with the extra man, and each member of the "Big Three" scored in the victory.
"We just executed right to the finish," captain Ryan Getzlaf said of the struggling power play. "We've been working pretty hard during the last little while on getting pucks to the net and do all the little things, but tonight we got rewarded for it."
The win snapped a three-game losing streak, and a run of five consecutive losses in this building. Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan are not skating together at even strength right now, but they can still carry the Ducks -- with a little help from 41-year-old Teemu Selanne.
On a night where they produced only 16 shots on net, the Ducks scored two of their goals on the power play, which had been 4-for-35 entering the game. The Ducks had a full practice in this building Wednesday with plenty of attention on the power play.
"Our motto is practice [the power play] every possible chance we can," coach Randy Carlyle said. "Whether it is against pressure or with no pressure, it is just puck movement. We have four or five staples that we try to do, even if there's no resistance. When it does go south on you, the skill set you have, if you go back to the structure that you create on it, you always give yourself a chance."
The Ducks converted their first chance with the extra man against Minnesota. After George Parros drew a holding penalty on Darroll Powe, the Ducks' big guns made the Wild pay at 8:47 of the opening period. Selanne sent the puck toward the net and Getzlaf pushed it towards Perry, who stopped it with his left foot and then had plenty of net to work with as goaltender Niklas Backstrom had already come out of the butterfly and committed to Getzlaf's pass/shot.
It was Perry's fourth goal of the season. He led the League with 50 goals and collected the Hart Trophy for his efforts in 2010-11.
"We scored, and it is improving, but we still have some work to do," Perry said. "We were moving it crisply. We were snapping it around. We worked on that in practice -- everybody touching the puck, everybody moving around and playing different positions. Anybody can play anywhere, and it is that complete level to create the second chances. I thought we did a good job of that tonight."
Ryan made it 2-0 at 7:01 of the second. Selanne stole the puck from Dany Heatley near the Anaheim blue line, and while his 2-on-1 pass was thwarted he eventually knocked the puck free from a scrum in front of the Wild net, and Ryan swept it in from the left circle.
While Anaheim's power play has struggled this season, Minnesota has been even worse. The Wild entered the night 29th in the NHL at 9.7 percent, and a few fans booed early in their third extra-man opportunity of the evening when the puck was cleared, but defenseman Jared Spurgeon quieted some of the boobirds when he cut Anaheim's lead in half at 13:07. Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller turned aside Pierre-Marc Bouchard's power-play shot from the top of the zone, but the deflection off Devin Setoguchi allowed for a long rebound. Spurgeon snuck down from the right point to blast it past the diving goaltender for his first goal of the season.
The Ducks connected on the power play again early in the third period. Selanne was allowed to collect the puck to the right of Backstrom and survey the ice for too long. He had a pair of Ducks at the far post, and Getzlaf ended up on the end of his saucer pass for an easy tap-in at 3:58.
It was Selanne's third assist of the night, and the fourth goal of the season for Getzlaf. Perry also collected an assist for his first multi-point contest of the season.
"Teemu's been doing the same things for a lot of years, and luckily we've been together for a long time," Getzlaf said. "We kind of have that awareness with each other about where we're going to be and those things help a lot when you're out there on the power play."
The Ducks entered the game last in the NHL in faceoff percentage, and lost 34 of 58 draws in this game, but Getzlaf setup his own goal, which proved to be the winner, by winning a faceoff at the start of the power play.
Minnesota pulled within 3-2 with 6:06 remaining on its second extra-man goal of the night. Matt Cullen deflected a shot by Mikko Koivu past Hiller for his fourth of the season.
But the Wild didn't help themselves by taking two penalties in the final five minutes, including one by Cullen with 2:45 left. The Wild are now 3-3-3 on the season.
"I think we can still do a better job on it," Koivu said. "It is about everyone being on the same page and helping each other out. ... Obviously we need to keep shooting the pucks and get traffic in front of the goalies."
Anaheim improved to 1-0-1 on this grueling seven-game, 13-day road trip. Snapping a three-game slide can be important for any team, but the Ducks have too many of them early in recent years for their liking and this was a step in the right direction.
"We've started every season for the last while pretty slow and come February and March when you're battling for the playoffs, when you can get these points this early it is not such a battle when it comes to February," Getzlaf said.
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