ANAHEIM – Leave it up to Teemu Selanne to state what was on everybody's mind.
After teammates Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey downplayed the best start in Anaheim history, Selanne greeted a small group of reporters in an empty Ducks locker room and drew a comparison to the previous record-holding 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship team.
"I told them earlier, there's a lot of similarities, and that's a good sign," said Selanne after the Ducks held off the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Friday night.
"We didn't play that well – the first period was good – but the performance went down. But still we found a way to win the games. That's what makes good teams better...we're pretty much running with all cylinders. Everybody is playing well."
The Ducks are 15-3-1 for 31 points, surpassing the 13-2-4 mark by that '06-07 team. Selanne's 669th career goal – which broke a tie with Luc Robitaille for 11th on the all-time list, was a beauty, and Getzlaf continued to reinvent himself with his seventh goal as Anaheim won its eighth straight at home.
This wasn't quite how the '07 team would have done it, though, as Anaheim needed Matt Beleskey's goal on a fluky bounce for the game winner after a charged-up Wild got third-period tallies by Kyle Brodziak and Devin Setoguchi. Jonas Hiller made some crucial late saves, including a shot off the mask by Matt Cullen, on a penalty kill. He stopped 31 of 33 shots.
"I think the biggest thing is the team confidence," Selanne said. "It doesn't matter if we're down two goals or you're up 3-0, we know we're going to win the game. You don't have to change much, you don't have to really panic or anything. Just stay with the plan."
On a night when the puck was bouncing like a tennis ball, Beleskey punched a shot under Darcy Kuemper's left pad at 11:26 of the second after Daniel Winnik's pass glanced off Ryan Suter's skate, giving the Ducks a 3-0 lead.
Kuemper didn't have it easy in his third NHL start, with his weary-legged teammates playing the second of a back-to-back game. Niklas Backstrom played in Minnesota's 4-3 win at Phoenix on Thursday.
"They have a lot of good players, but so do we in here," Kuemper said. "I got to face these guys every day in practice. It's been helping me a lot. I feel I've been getting better every day. Unfortunately we didn't the result today, but this is probably the game, or the three that I've played, that I've felt the most comfortable."
Selanne made a classic cut across the right circle and used Tom Gilbert and Nate Prosser as a screen to flick a backhand from the slot past Kuemper for a 2-0 lead. Bobby Ryan made a center line drive on the play to draw the defenders in.
Selanne typically downplays individual records, but he acknowledged that, "For some reason I knew this one. Luc is a friend of mine. It's a big honor, obviously. The way he played, it's fun to watch. It's overwhelming. When you look at all the names, it's hard to believe it's happening. But it's fun. It's a fun journey for myself, too. Most nights I still feel good."
Anaheim felt good roaming in Minnesota's zone early, as an untouched Getzlaf tapped in Perry's centering pass at 4:45. Getzlaf skated the puck up the right side and fed to Kyle Palmieri, who passed it off the boards to Perry.
Getzlaf, who had 11 goals last season, has 18 points in 22 games. His team used to have an issue starting games but closing was the issue this time.
"Now you want me to explain those," Getzlaf joked. "Before I had to explain the slow starts. Nobody's ever happy. Those are obviously something we consciously talked about and having to come back in games. But at the same time, we've got to play a complete 60 minutes as well."
The Wild played a terrific final 20 minutes despite the back-to-back.
"We had chances to get the third one, too," coach Mike Yeo said. "We just couldn't buy it. I was real impressed with the effort of our guys.
"I didn't think our first period was good. We have to start better against good teams. We are sort of in between on some plays and not as aggressive as we need to be. But once we got it going, we were good."
Minnesota outshot Anaheim 15-6 in the second period but faced a 3-0 hole after 40 minutes against a defense that sat a banged up Sheldon Souray.
|Ryan Getzlaf (7) ASST: Corey Perry (13), Kyle Palmieri (3)|
1 - 0 ANA
|Teemu Selanne (6) ASST: Luca Sbisa (4), Bobby Ryan (10)|
2 - 0 ANA
|Matt Beleskey (4) ASST: Daniel Winnik (5), Andrew Cogliano (5)|
3 - 0 ANA
|Kyle Brodziak (2) ASST: NONE|
3 - 1 ANA
|Devin Setoguchi (4) ASST: Mike Rupp (1), Ryan Suter (13)|
3 - 2 ANA
|Bobby Ryan Holding against Matt Cullen|
|Matt Beleskey Fighting (maj) against Clayton Stoner|
|Clayton Stoner Fighting (maj) against Matt Beleskey|
|Saku Koivu Hi-sticking against Tom Gilbert|
|Zenon Konopka Fighting (maj) against Patrick Maroon|
|Patrick Maroon Fighting (maj) against Zenon Konopka|
|Zenon Konopka Roughing against Patrick Maroon|
|Francois Beauchemin Tripping against Matt Cullen|