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Beleskey, Kesler lead Ducks past Oilers

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks seem to have this late-game drama down pat.

Matt Beleskey tied for the team lead by scoring his 14th goal and Ryan Kesler had his 10th to help the Ducks beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 at Honda Center on Wednesday. Anaheim's past 12 wins have each been by one goal, and the Ducks are an NHL-best 15-0-5 in one-goal games.

This time the Ducks held off the stubborn Oilers in the first of a home-and-home series that resumes Friday in Edmonton. Goalie Frederik Andersen made 21 saves to get the win in his 16th consecutive start.

"There's areas of our game we need to improve and we keep improving on it," Kesler said. "We played well enough to win tonight. I didn't think we played our best, but we definitely [bore] down in that third period when they scored an early one and we finished the game off right."

Anaheim is 19-6-5 and has an NHL-best 43 points despite losing nearly 200 man-games to injury or illness.

"I think [it's] the character in this room - we don't let much define us in here when we deal with injury - or the mumps," Kesler said. "We just keep battling. We're playing well, and we're going to keep riding this."

The Oilers (7-17-5) got chances late and a breakaway stop by goalie Viktor Fasth on Devante Smith-Pelly but are 1-9-4 in their past 14 games.

Edmonton pulled to 2-1 on an unassisted goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 53 seconds into the third period. Anaheim couldn't clear the puck and Nugent-Hopkins scored on a wrist shot after Ducks defenseman Josh Manson turned over the puck while falling over Edmonton's Taylor Hall.

Edmonton took two penalties in the final 7:10 to interrupt its comeback hopes and couldn't pull Fasth for an extra attacker until 16 seconds remained. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said "the last three minutes were probably the best we've played in controlling the lead all year."

The Oilers have scored 15 goals in their past 10 games.

"It's frustrating for everyone," Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins said. "We have some guys that have proven they can put the puck in the net. For whatever reason, we're just having trouble getting it in there right now. It's something you have to be extremely patient for."

Ex-Duck Fasth said from his perspective the Oilers needed to get more traffic in front of Andersen. He liked the road game they played, but Nugent-Hopkins was blunt about Edmonton's 4-6-5 record in one-goal games.

"Obviously close isn't good enough," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We need to find a way to get that extra one at the right time, make that big play that gets us the lead. We have to find a way to do that. Close doesn't really cut it."

Kesler got his fourth goal in three games with a breakaway wrist shot at 10:26 of the second period. Defenseman Hampus Lindholm made a saucer outlet pass just out of the reach of Hall that Kesler grabbed as he streaked down the right side.

"I saw [Hall] cheating to Kesler so I took the puck up myself and got good speed," said Lindholm, who was named the game's First Star. "I saw Kesler was flying on the side there. I just tried to get it to him. Not a bad pass to a good player. That was nice to see him score."

Andersen got an assist on the play, his second of the season and as many as Beleskey, who scored on a snap shot in the slot at 8:59 of the first with Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry serving a penalty for holding Andrew Cogliano. The Ducks moved the puck around before Kyle Palmieri made a pass under a lunging Andrew Ference.

Beleskey tied injured forward Corey Perry with his 14th goal; the Ducks are 3-0-4 without Perry this season and 2-0-0 since they announced Perry is out for three to four weeks with a sprained knee.

Beleskey said he tries to play the same game no matter what line he plays on. Boudreau had a deeper explanation when asked if Beleskey is a 30-goal scorer.

"He's shocking everybody right now, so we don't want to say anything to him about it," Boudreau said. "He's got 14 … he's constantly getting chances. The one thing that [Beleskey] has that nobody realizes - his shot is tremendous. He's got a tremendous release. He's finally just learning how to use it."

Anaheim had an 11-1 shot advantage in the opening 10 minutes and could have extended its lead if Rene Bourque didn't miss two excellent chances on his 33rd birthday, one on an open net and the other on a pass from Ryan Getzlaf at the top of the crease.

Edmonton has been outscored 31-15 in the first period this season.

Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson made his NHL debut. He was a plus-1 in 13:08.

"I thought he battled hard, played a simple game - just what we needed from him," Eakins said.

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