It took all of two minutes, but in that span, the Ducks saw a third-period lead turn into a 5-3 deficit - a score that ultimately held in a disheartening loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center. Fueled by their sellout crowd of 19,288, the Wild scored three unanswered goals in its third-period blitz that left the Ducks reeling. The loss dropped Anaheim's record to 26-14-9 (61 points) and ended a streak that saw the club hold the opposition to two goals or less in nine consecutive games.
Stefan Noesen, Cam Fowler and Corey Perry scored for Anaheim, which lost for just the third time in any fashion in the month of January (8-2-1). Jonathan Bernier stopped 16-of-20 shots in relief of John Gibson, who left the game in the first period due to an apparent injury.
Erik Haula and Jason Zucker had multi-goal games, while Ryan Suter also found the back of the net to give Minnesota its 19th win in its last 23 games (19-3-1). Devan Dubnyk turned aside 26 shots for his 25th victory of the season. The win gave Minnesota sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with 65 points (30-10-5).
Minnesota didn't waste any time getting on the board, and it was a rather innocent-looking slap shot from Haula that beat Gibson far side from the left faceoff dot to put the Wild on top, 1-0. The goal, Haula's eighth of the season, was scored just 2:35 into the game and came off the rush following a Ducks turnover in the offensive zone.
The Ducks answered right back when Noesen buried a rebound chance off a point shot from Fowler at the 5:47 mark of the first period. It was the second goal of the season for the 23-year-old rookie, who scored his first career NHL goal in his season debut on December 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Video: ANA@MIN: Noesen slams home a rebound in front
With Hampus Lindholm in the penalty box for tripping, Fowler flashed his trademark skating ability when he pounced on a Minnesota turnover deep in his own zone. With two strides, Fowler broke free from the pack and cruised in all alone on Dubnyk. In the blink of an eye, Fowler went forehand-to-backhand-to-forehand to tuck one between the wickets for his 10th goal of 2016-17, tying his career high in goals for a season (2010-11).
Video: ANA@MIN: Fowler steals puck and finishes pretty SHG
Already without Jakob Silfverberg (upper body), who didn't make the trip to Minnesota, the Ducks were forced to juggle their lines when Andrew Cogliano left the ice after taking an awkward hit in the neutral zone midway through the first period. (Cogliano would later return to the game in the second period.)
The Ducks increased their lead to 3-1 just two minutes into the second period when Perry jammed home a loose puck in front of Dubnyk for his ninth goal of the season, and his third on the power play. Perry raised his arms and looked up to the heavens, surely feeling the weight of the world lifting off his shoulders.
Video: ANA@MIN: Perry punches loose puck home for PPG
Minnesota responded minutes later when Zucker pounced on a turnover committed by Sami Vatanen to cut the deficit in half at the 5:03 mark of the second period. After corralling the loose puck, Zucker walked in on Bernier and chipped one over his shoulder for his 13th goal and 30th point of the season.
With the Ducks trapped in their own zone, Haula scored his second goal to tie game at three goals apiece at the 14:40 mark of the third period. The play started when Suter used a shot-pass to get the puck to Haula, who turned his blade to redirect a shot past Bernier.
Minnesota took the lead on the following shift when Suter joined the rush and threw a bad-angle shot on net from behind the goal line. The shot went off the back of Bernier's leg just 30 seconds after Haula tied the game.
Zucker added the all-important insurance marker with a backhander on a breakaway that beat Bernier clean on the glove-side to push Minnesota's lead to 4-2 with 4:21 remaining.
The Ducks will close out their two-game road trip on Monday night in Winnipeg.