|This guy beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday, flew across the country and earned his first NHL win on Sunday. How was your weekend?
It's hard to find the most compelling storyline from last night's 7-4 Ducks victory over the last-place Blue Jackets last night:
- Ducks play a desperation game and win it for a second straight victory?
- They lose Jonas Hiller
to injury in the first period?
- They score a season-high seven goals?
- Perry notches his fourth career hat trick?
- They have to kill a five-minute power play with a two-goal lead in the third and survive it without a shot on goal?
- Iiro Tarkki
makes his first NHL appearance and wins it?
All of it and more happened last night at Honda Center, in a game the Ducks desperately needed to avoid a rather unappetizing fate. "We knew this morning when we came to the rink what their record was and what ours was," said Perry. "Where we are is unacceptable. We have to keep playing. We’ve had two great games, but we have to continue to keep pushing and doing the right things."
Said Teemu Selanne
, "We realized that if we were going to lose tonight, we were going to be rock bottom. We didn’t want to do that."
(Columbus, by the way, fired coach Scott Arniel
not long after the game.)
Perry and Selanne had five of the Ducks' season-high seven goals, with Perry grabbing the hattie with 43 seconds left in the game, picking up the puck in the faceoff circle in his own end and sending it into the empty Blue Jackets net. That goal came not long after the Ducks escaped a five-minute Columbus power play set up by a JF Jacques elbow to the head of RJ Umberger, which drew a major penalty. With Anaheim holding a tenuous 6-4 lead at the time, Nikita Nikitin's shot off the crossbar turned out to be the only viable threat during what could have been a harrowing sequence.
As it was, things were already tenuous after the Ducks lost Hiller with about a minute and a half left in the first period. After he made a sprawling save on Rick Nash, Hiller was slow to get back to his feet and appeared in obvious pain. After Saku Koivu
scored at the other end of the rink to make it 4-1 Ducks, Hiller gingerly went to the bench and then to the locker room. And with backup Dan Ellis
already out four weeks with a groin strain, the 26-year-old Tarkki (just called up from Syracuse that morning) was thrust into the first NHL action of his life.
The first shot he faced? A slap shot goal on the power play from Derick Brassard. “That didn’t feel good,” Tarkki said. “But after that I still felt pretty good and confident.”
He'd give up two more before the night was through, one a little bit fluky as the puck snuck under him during a scramble in the crease and the other a Nash rifle off the turnover that veteran NHL netminders would have trouble stopping. His Ducks teammates helped him out by only allowing 10 Columbus shots in the final two periods -- not to mention pouring in seven goals at the other end -- and Tarkki earned his first NHL win. That came just one day after he beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a Syracuse Crunch uniform. He flew to Orange County from the East Coast early Sunday morning.
"I didn't expect this to happen so fast," Tarkki said. "Scary. Of course I was a little bit nervous (when) I heard that I'm going in. Actually I felt pretty good going in."
We'll have more on Tarkki on the website later today, as he spoke to reporters at length after practice.
The good news for the Ducks is that Hiller was proclaimed as "day to day" (aren't we all?) by Boudreau after the game. "He wasn't feeling right," Boudreau said. "When he made that save, he looked a little awkward there. With about a minute to go, he said he'd just wait until the end of the period and I wasn't going to take the chance. So we took him out."
And in a season where so many things have not gone as planned for the Ducks, they won consecutive games for the first time since taking four straight October 8-17 -- on a night when they were wondering just who would be put in net if Tarkki
got hurt. Even Selanne joked afterward that goaltending coach and frequent practice participant Pete Peeters, who spent a successful 14 years as an NHL netminder, would suit up.
Thankfully, they weren't faced with that conundrum last night, but the Ducks will
have to figure out what Hiller's status is starting tomorrow night against Dallas, as the Ducks finish their six-game homestand. That's when the Ducks will hope a modest and long overdue win streak begins to snowball into something much more.
"We want to start climbing up and try to find a hot streak," Selanne said. "I still believe that we have all the pieces here. The last couple of games there have been a lot of bright things."
- - -
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