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Ducks beat Canucks, regain Pacific lead

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen was doing his best to deflect questions about earning more starts as the Stanley Cup Playoffs approach.

The 24-year-old rookie was turning away inquiries about playing more behind No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller as easily as he did 31 shots in a 5-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday night. But Andersen eventually admitted he wants to make the choice a hard one for coach Bruce Boudreau.

"I hope so, but it's his decision," Andersen said. "Every time you go on the ice you want to prove you can play too."

Andersen made his best saves early against the Canucks and was good when the Ducks, playing for a second straight night (they dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday), were outshot 15-6 in the second period. But even after the game turned into another romp over the Canucks, his teammates were quick to credit their young goalie.

"It was not an easy night to come in after last night and knowing how desperate Vancouver was and the saves he made in the first period really took the momentum to our side," said center Saku Koivu, who scored the only goal of the second period and added an assist. "Coming into the season, we didn't know much about how he was going to be but they brought him up and he's been amazing for us."

Anaheim has won all four games against the Canucks this season. With the latest victory, the Ducks leapfrogged the San Jose Sharks, moved into top spot in the Pacific Division and dealt the Canucks already-slim hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs another blow.

"Now it's up to us to not give it up," Boudreau said of the division lead.

Andersen leads NHL rookies in wins (17), and his .926 save percentage is better than Hiller's (.913), but Boudreau isn't planning to change up his goaltending rotation yet.

"When Hiller is on, he's really good as well," Boudreau said. "If it gets down to last three, four games we'll start thinking about it, but right now it's status quo."

For the Ducks, the status quo includes beating the Canucks.

Luca Sbisa and Matt Beleskey scored 71 seconds apart in the first period, and Corey Perry scored 6:45 into the third period and set up Mathieu Perreault's power-play goal with 5:57 left.

Daniel Winnik added two assists for the Ducks. Anaheim rested 43-year-old forward Teemu Selanne, but it didn't matter against a Canucks team that they have dominated this season.

The only downside for the Ducks was seeing captain and leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf go to the dressing room after blocking the shot that led to the 2-on-1 rush and Perreault's goal. Getzlaf, who was given the second assist on the goal, did not return for the final six minutes, but Boudreau said it was a precautionary move with the game decided.

"It's nothing serious or I wouldn't be smiley right now," Boudreau said.

Brad Richardson scored and Eddie Lack made 16 saves in his 16th straight start for the Canucks, who lost in regulation for the first time in five games (3-1-1) and remained five points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. But Vancouver has six games remaining, the Coyotes have seven and the Dallas Stars, who moved four points ahead of the Canucks, have eight to play.

"We're trying to look for some help, but I don't know if we really deserve it to be honest," Richardson said. "It (stinks) to be in the position where you have to rely on other teams to lose and we're not really winning all our games, so what do you expect."

If the Canucks miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six seasons, their record against the Ducks will be a big part of it. Vancouver has been outscored 21-6 while losing all four against Anaheim, including twice in early January during a two-month spiral out of the race.

"We have struggled within our division and the top teams," Canucks coach John Tortorella said. "And that's something as we move forward we've got to find how to play against them."

Tortorella thought the Canucks were doing a better job of it through most of the second period, but an ill-advised cross-ice pass through the neutral zone, followed by a blown defensive coverage left Koivu all alone in the low slot to make it 3-1 with 8:58 left in the period.

"With some opportunities we had and we don't score and then they score their third one, really on a nothing play," Tortorella said. "That team, it doesn't take them many chances to score. That third goal hurt us. It just seemed to take the wind out of our sails a bit."

Despite playing the night before, Anaheim scored twice early.

Sbisa opened the scoring 7:36 in with his first goal of the season and first in 42 games dating back to March 12, 2013. The defenseman's point shot through traffic appeared to hit a leg in front and dipped between the legs of Lack, who was screened by Kyle Palmieri.

Beleskey doubled the lead two shifts later, driving to the net after his first shot was blocked and getting a nifty between-the-legs pass back from Rickard Rakell that left Beleskey with an empty net.

Richardson, who was robbed by Andersen with the paddle of his stick on a shorthanded chance in alone earlier in the period, put the Canucks on the board two-and-a-half minutes later. But after giving up Koivu's goal against the flow play in the second, Perry erased any lingering doubts in the third period.

After hitting each post behind Lack in the first period, Perry converted his own rebound as he spun through the crease 6:45 into the third period. It was the second goal in seven games for Perry, who leads the Ducks and is tied for second in the NHL with 38. Perry then set up Perreault for his sixth goal in the past eight games.

"When we have four lines scoring, it makes our team difficult to play against," Koivu said. "At the end it doesn't really matter if you finish first or second, if you want to make some push in the playoffs you have to get your own game where you want it to be."

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