|"Holiday group hug, everybody."
Like the small, wrapped box you find behind the tree long after everything else has been opened, the Ducks gave us all a late Christmas gift last night.
For the first time in nearly two months the Ducks won a game on the road, an encouraging 3-2 triumph over the Sharks. And it came in the unlikeliest of buildings, the loud and unfriendly HP Pavilion, where the Sharks are again strong this year with a 12-6-1 mark that is among the best home records in the Western Conference.
"To win in this building is quite a feat," said Bobby Ryan
, whose breakaway goal in the second was huge for Anaheim (more on that later). "It was nice to get one on the road. It's long overdue."
Indeed it was. The Ducks had gone 0-9-4 away from Anaheim since an October 27 win at Minnesota. At the time, few of us could have had any idea they would go on to have the struggles they've endured over the past two months. "To only have two road wins and the last one coming on Oct. 27 was a little embarrassing," Cogliano said. "That's not the ideal situation."
The Ducks have only 10 wins overall, but remarkably three of them have come against the rival Sharks, who have taken their usual spot near the top of the West, third as of this morning. Two of those wins came during a four-day span -- first in Anaheim and then in SJ -- part of that four-game winning streak the Ducks enjoyed at the beginning of the campaign.
Last night the Ducks did it with timely scoring and a nice 36-save performance by Jonas Hiller
. Luca Sbisa
gave the Ducks their first lead with a rocketed slap shot
(off a nice assist from George Parros
) just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. After the Sharks tied it later in the period, Ryan gave the Ducks the lead back with a beautiful steal of a Joe Thornton pass that led to this breakaway snipe
that beat Antti Niemi.
And after the Sharks tied it again
, Cogliano came through with the eventual game-winner later in the second, wristing a shot inside the far post
that Niemi probably would like to have back. That was enough for Hiller, who stopped all 18 San Jose shots in the third period. Also in that third period, a fan threw a dead duck on the HP Pavilion ice
, a contrast to a Ducks team that was very much alive at the time. When asked about it after practice today, Bruce Boudreau said, "I'm gonna be honest, I just now got that....A dead duck, we're the Ducks."
And those Ducks, for the first time in ages, were get back on a plane to Orange County feeling pretty good about themselves.
“It’s been a long time," Ryan said. "Obviously it’s frustrating. We had some road trips that we just fell apart on. Had leads and blew. It’s tough when you don’t feel good about yourself going into every building. Hopefully this is a jump start and something moving forward.”
It's going to have to be, as the Ducks need to roll this win into a lot more. They still sit in 14th in the West with a 10-19-6 record through 35 games.
“We all have dreams, right?” said Boudreau before the game yesterday. “You go out every game and you hope that you can win every game. That’s it. I go through the schedule and say, ‘OK, we need a good 10-game win streak or a 13-game winning streak. It’s easier said than done.
“Everything is possible.”
Boudreau, who has shown in his relatively short time here a propensity for other-sport references, did it again when he talked about what he's told his team. “I said, ‘Listen, if this was golf, we shot a 62 on the front nine. But who says we can’t shoot a 36 on the back,’” he said. ”That’s the way you have to look at it and if you look at it any other way, then all of a sudden you’re beaten before you start.
“So that’s the way I’m hoping that they look at it. It’s the way I’m looking at it anyway. Let’s hope the best happens.”
- - -
In a season that has had so many things not go as planned, the Ducks suffered another blow when Devante Smith-Pelly
suffered a broken bone in his left foot while playing at the World Juniors. The Ducks had lent DSP to Team Canada for the tournament, and he was knocked out in an 8-1 win over Finland while blocking a shot in the second period.
He is expected to miss four to six weeks and it has yet to be decided whether he will come back to Anaheim or stay with Team Canada.