As the saying goes, Derek Grant had himself a game tonight. The veteran center was an impact player in Anaheim's 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center, the opener of a crucial four-game road trip.
Grant established all kinds of personal milestones in the game. He tallied his first NHL shorthanded goal, which - at the time - tied his career high for goals in a game (2). Then, in the closing minutes and the Ducks holding onto a two-goal lead, Grant capped it off with an empty-net goal for his first-career NHL hat trick. The likeable center finished the game with three goals, six shots (game high) and a +3 rating in 15:52 TOI. He was also an absolute force on the draw, winning 9-of-12 faceoffs (75%).
Because of his hat trick, Grant in his postgame interview said he made good on a bet he made with a friend in the offseason. "In the summer a friend of mine told me if I get a hat trick this year I'd get to name his first-born, so I'm excited about that."
The Ducks certainly needed a performance like this. The win ended a five-game losing streak and came against one of the top teams in the NHL. The Blues entered the game with a 12-3-5 record overall, including a 5-1-3 mark on home ice. They sit atop the Western Conference and woke up this morning three points behind the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the NHL. The Blues had points in nine straight games (7-0-2) and had gone 9-1-2 in their last 12 entering tonight's matchup.
"You certainly want to get it," Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins said, on the importance of starting the trip with a win. "That wasn't pretty out there, but the main thing is the points. We really needed these, especially in these buildings we're going into. Starting with this one. It's a hard [building] to win in."
Anaheim's penalty kill was perfect, going 4-for-4 including a shorthanded goal from No. 38. (More on that later).
"They were detailed," Eakins said, on the PK. "We had great sticks. That St. Louis power play is very skilled. We did a great job. [Assistant coach] Marty Wilford worked hard with those guys this morning. They were very detailed and ready."
True to form, the Blues came out of the gates flying tonight. They hemmed the Ducks in the zone for most of the opening 3 1/2 minutes, but couldn't get one past goaltender John Gibson. (Gibson finished with 37 saves on 38 shots to improve his record this season to 7-9-0).
The Ducks were able to get one past Blues netminder Jordan Binnington on one of their first chances of the night. It came from captain Ryan Getzlaf, who played a game of give-and-go with linemate Max Jones. Getzlaf wound up burying a shot past Binnington to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead four minutes into the game on his eighth goal of the season. The goal gave Getzlaf 38 points (10g/28a) in 42 career games against the Blues, tops among active Ducks. It also placed him in a tie for second on the club in goals this season with Adam Henrique.
Video: ANA@STL: Getzlaf, Jones team up for 2-on-1 strike
Then, Grant doubled the lead just 1:41 later when he found himself in the right place at the right time, pouncing on a puck that caromed his way from the left corner. The 29-year-old was able to jam the puck home at the nearside post because Binnington opted to go the long way around to the front of the net.
Video: ANA@STL: Grant capitalizes on misplay by Pietrangelo
The Blues cut the two-goal deficit in half when defenseman Vince Dunn wired a shot under Gibson's right pad at the 3:14 mark of the middle frame, but the Ducks answered back four minutes later with an enormous shorthanded breakaway goal from Grant, who intercepted Justin Faulk's attempted cross-ice pass at his own blueline.
Video: ANA@STL: Grant steals puck, scores SHG on breakaway
Grant put the icing on the cake when he scored into an empty net with 1:39 remaining in regulation capping off an impressive victory to open the road trip.
Video: ANA@STL: Grant caps first career hat trick with ENG
"This one feels good, for sure," Grant said. "It's good to get a win early on the road. We just have to start preparing for the next one the same way we did for this one."
The Ducks will continue their four-game trek on Monday night against the league-leading Capitals.