On a night when fatigue was clearly evident, the Ducks leaned on their most consistent player all season - John Gibson - in what ended up being a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday. It was one of the finest performances of his young career - a 37-save shutout - in one of the ugliest games of the season that gave the Ducks a much-needed win to close out this season-long 14-day, six-game road trip.
Gibson's shutout was his fourth of the season and 10th of his career, and it established a single-season career high in victories (22). Gibson improved to 11-5-2 with a 1.87 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in his last 19 games.
"We needed him," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "That was one of the ugliest games we played on the road trip. Sometimes that's how it works. We played a lot of good games and didn't get the results, but tonight our goalie played well."
Joseph Cramarossa scored the lone goal for the Ducks, who reached the 70-point mark with the win (30-18-10). In addition, Anaheim has held opponents to two goals or less in 15 of the last 19 games (37 GA total, shootout goals excluded) and held teams without a power-play goal in 12 of the last 16 games.
"We were all tired," said Gibson, who improved to 22-14-8 on the season. "Any time you're on a road trip like this, it's tough. We knew that if we won this game, it would all be worth it in the end."
Video: ANA@MIN: Gibson lays out for fantastic pad save
The Ducks, who took the lead in the first period, improved to 20-1-1 when leading after two periods, and have now gone 9-4-0 against the Wild in the last 13 head-to-head meetings.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 22 shots in the loss - just his fourth regulation defeat in his last 30 games (24-4-2) - while the Wild lost for only the seventh time in regulation at home (19-7-1).
"It wasn't the best, but we ended on a high note," said Gibson. "We could use that and take the momentum into the next game."
A rather innocent-looking play got the Ducks on the board early. After Corey Perry threw a harmless shot on net from a bad angle, Dubnyk kicked out an uncharacteristic rebound that Cramarossa was able to chip in to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead at the 4:38 mark of the first period. The goal, the fourth of Cramarossa's young career, was the result of him sticking with the play and sneaking behind defenseman Nate Prosser for the loose puck. With the secondary assist on the goal, Hampus Lindholm tied Ruslan Salei (105) for ninth on the franchise's all-time points list for defensemen.
Video: ANA@MIN: Cramarossa backhands a rebound past Dubnyk
From there, the Ducks locked it down defensively for the remainder of the period, successfully killing off two penalties, including a Cam Fowler holding infraction at 16:44 before heading to the room with a 1-0 lead.
Though the second period was scoreless, it was a middle frame thoroughly dominated by the Wild. Minnesota out-shot the Ducks 16 to 4 in the period and spent the majority of it in the offensive zone. Nevertheless, the Ducks successfully killed off two more penalties, including a Getzlaf hooking call with two minutes remaining.
If being shorthanded five times wasn't enough adversity, the Ducks were forced to skate a forward short when their key faceoff specialist Antoine Vermette was handed a game misconduct for abuse of an official with 12:27 remaining in regulation.
Both clubs traded chances in the third period, but it was Gibson who raised his game to another level to withstand the offensive barrage generated by the Wild.
When the final buzzer sounded, Gibson's herculean effort gave the Ducks a much-needed victory to close out their longest road trip of the season. The Ducks will return home to host the Florida Panthers at Honda Center on Friday.
"We did a good job staying with it," said Getzlaf. "This has been a long road trip. When you don't get as many wins as you want, you have to go home and reset things."