DENVER -- It sure looks like the Anaheim Ducks struck gold in the free-agent market after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs a year ago.
Signees Sheldon Souray, Daniel Winnik and Viktor Fasth have played major roles in the Ducks' red-hot 7-1-1 start – the best in franchise history -- and all three contributed in Wednesday night's 3-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.
Souray, a 36-year-old defenseman, had a goal and an assist; he's scored four times and has seven points. Winnik, a former Colorado forward, has five goals and three assists after setting up Francois Beauchemin's second-period goal. Fasth, a 30-year-old rookie from Sweden, turned aside 31 shots for his initial NHL shutout and is unbeaten in four starts. He has a 0.98 goals-against average and a save percentage of .962.
"You can still find some gems and he's one of them and we're lucky to have him," Souray said of Fasth, who has allowed just four goals on 105 shots. "He plays with such poise and confidence.
The victory moved the Ducks into first place in the Pacific Division – San Jose also has 15 points but has played one more game – and into second place in the Western Conference, three points behind Chicago.
The Ducks have won four games in a row, have gone 5-0-1 in their past six games and are 3-0-1 on the road with five games remaining on a grueling six-game trip.
"We didn't play a very good game tonight," Souray said. "We have played much better and we'll need to play much better going forward to keep this thing going. We're getting results, but we're also getting some unbelievable goaltending. When we've had breakdowns, they've held us in. We're a work in progress. I think we're gaining in confidence to know that we can win games like this."
Fasth made a few tough saves, but he was quick to credit his teammates for blocking 22 shots.
"Guys were battling in front of me and they make it much easier for me to play back there," he said. "I'm really enjoying playing behind these guys. They're incredible in front of me. [The shutout] is a little bonus. The most important thing is we got the win and started off this road trip really good."
The Avalanche, meanwhile, has lost two consecutive games – both at home – and five of the past seven to fall two games below .500 (4-6-0). Colorado already has been shut out three times.
"We have to figure out a way to score, that's the bottom line," center Matt Duchene said. "I mean, getting shut out three times in 10 games is unacceptable. Almost 50 percent of the games we're getting shut out in; it's a joke. We have to figure it out here. We have to bear down more in practice and try to make a few more plays every now and then. We're knifing the puck in all the time instead of trying to get inside and score a goal.
"Give them credit. Their goalie played outstanding and made some good saves, but we have to get more pucks on net. They probably blocked 20 shots tonight; it's too many. We're not getting shots through, we're not fighting for position in front of the net. We've got to be better. It's painful right now. We're playing pretty good hockey, but at the end of the night we're getting shut out 3-0 against a team that on paper doesn't look like we should be getting beat 3-0. But we are, so we have to figure it out."
The Ducks needed just eight first-period shots to grab a 2-0 lead on goals by Souray and Saku Koivu.
Souray, who has goals in three consecutive games and has rejuvenated his career, opened the scoring at 6:20 with a shot from just inside the blue line that found its way through a number of sticks and skates before slipping behind goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Souray, Teemu Selanne and Koivu combined for a power-play goal at 15:39 during a two-man advantage after Colorado's Michael Sgarbossa and Ryan O'Byrne took interference and hooking penalties, respectively, 40 seconds apart.
It took the Ducks 34 seconds to convert. Souray fed Selanne at the base of the right circle, Selanne passed in front, and Koivu nudged the puck in while stationed near the left post.
The Ducks increased the lead to 3-0 at 10:45 of the second period when Winnik fed a centering pass to Beauchemin for a one-timer from the top of the slot.
The Avalanche failed to register a shot on goal during a first-period power play and are 3-for-33 with the man advantage this season.
|Brad Staubitz Fighting (maj) against Patrick Bordeleau|
|Patrick Bordeleau Fighting (maj) against Brad Staubitz|
|Ryan Getzlaf Interference against John Mitchell|
|Michael Sgarbossa Hooking against Andrew Cogliano|
|Ryan O'Byrne Cross checking against Bryan Allen|
|Sheldon Souray Roughing against Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau|
|Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau Roughing against Sheldon Souray|
|Shane O'Brien Hooking against Andrew Cogliano|
|Shane O'Brien Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Shane O'Brien Misconduct (10 min)|