RALEIGH -- Sometimes it pays to be a smart aleck.
With Anaheim trailing 2-1 to start the third period, coach Bruce Boudreau quickly grew frustrated with the Ducks, who had squandered two power plays to start the final 20 minutes.
"Our power play has been so dismal," Boudreau said. "So for the third power play in the third period, I said, 'Decline it.' Corey Perry
looked at me as if I had two heads. Then he went out and scored because I think he was so (ticked) at me. But that was the first power play goal we got outside of Columbus on this trip."
Perry's goal, batted out of midair, was his 30th of the season. More important, it tied the game for the road-weary Ducks, who were playing the final game of an eight-game trip. After surviving a back-and-forth third period and overtime, Anaheim's Saku Koivu
scored the only goal of the shootout, giving the Ducks a 3-2 win to end the trip on a high note.
The Ducks finished their trip 5-1-2, continuing their late-season charge toward a playoff spot. They are 16-3-4 since Jan. 6, when they were 20 points out of a playoff berth. They head home for a meeting with Chicago on Sunday just four points out of eighth place.
"It was our season," said Perry, summarizing the importance of the eight-game stretch. "To go 5-1-2, what can you say? We played a lot of good teams -- Detroit, Pittsburgh -- and to come out on top and get 12 points of a possible 16 is pretty huge."
For most the game, goaltenders Jonas Hiller
and Justin Peters
took center stage, trading saves and leaving the game a toss-up.
Carolina's Jerome Samson
opened the scoring at 13:52 of the first period, knocking in his own rebound. But Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa
tied the game less than a minute later with a hard wrister that beat Peters high to the stick side.
Carolina took a 2-1 lead at 5:40 of the second period, with Jaroslav Spacek
setting up fellow defenseman Jamie McBain
for a power-play goal, but the goaltenders ruled until Perry evened the score in the third.
"Bruce was all over us to get one, and it's our job to get one," Perry said. "(Carolina's) power play got one for them. That's what wins hockey games."
Or in this case, gets a team within striking distance of a victory. That's when the goaltenders took over. Peters stopped Ryan Getzlaf
on a one-timer, then denied Lubomir Visnovsky
's bid from the high slot with a glove save.
The most spectacular save — and the most unusual looking — belonged to Hiller. After staving off a shot by Jeff Skinner
, he somehow rejected Drayson's Bowman's bid while facing away from the play.
"(Hiller) made a couple plays while looking at the crowd," Boudreau marveled. "I don't know how you do that, but he did. He's in a real zone. When your goaltender is playing great, everything else goes off of that."
Hiller's confidence got a boost by winning the shootout. With a 2-6 mark this season going into Thursday night, he was happy to come away with one more in the win column.
"We practiced it the other day, which gave me some confidence and I felt pretty good," said Hiller, who started his 20th consecutive game. "I thought my depth was good right off the bat and I was seeing the puck pretty well the whole game long. That makes it easier if you go into a shootout."
Koivu's game-winner was the only shot to get past Peters in the shootout, with the Anaheim forward putting on a stickhandling show.
"I was able to get him moving laterally and I was able to bring it back to my forehand," Koivu said. "There's a chance when you make a quick move like that that you might lose the puck, but I was able to keep control and get it in there."
The Hurricanes have had no such luck after overtime. They are 0-5 in the shootouts, another symptom of a sinking season. Skinner, Eric Staal
and Brandon Sutter
all missed in the one-on-one; Staal, who is 2-for-17 lifetime in shootouts, rang one off the right post.
"I felt like I had my legs and my jump and I just wasn’t able to get it to go in," said Staal, who extended his point streak to seven games with an assist on Samson's goal. Jiri Tlusty
also assisted on the goal, extending his points streak to nine games.
Staal nearly scored in overtime, when he slid the puck through the crease behind Hiller.
"I needed another inch to give myself a better angle at the net. It was a lucky break for them that it didn’t hit the back of the net."
The Hurricanes aren't quite keeping pace with Anaheim's late-season efforts, but they have played well lately. Despite the loss, they are 5-1-3 in their last nine.
"It was a lot of pressure," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "That was a playoff-style game tonight. I'm pretty happy with our group right now because that's a good hockey team. They're big. They're one of the hottest teams in the league right now."
So hot, in fact, that they exceeded their coach's expectations by climbing to 62 points at the end of the road trip.
"If we could reach the 60-point plateau, I thought we could still be in the hunt," Boudreau said. "To get more than that is really big."