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Ducks giving new definition to finding ways to win

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

Look up and down the NHL team statistics page and you won't find the Anaheim Ducks in the top-10 in any of the key categories such as goals for, goals against, power play, penalty kill, shots for and shots against.

Now look at the standings and you'll see the Ducks at the top of the League with 58 points entering their game Wednesday against the New York Rangers (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

How is that possible?

Simple, really. The Ducks are strangely good in one-goal games, as in completely dominant to the point where they are almost unbeatable.

Anaheim is 20-0-6 in one-goal games this season. That means 46 of the Ducks' 58 points have come in games decided by one goal, including 17 that have finished in regulation or overtime. Anaheim is 15-0-2 in those games, and has won five of nine shootouts.

"We find a way," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I guess that's the No. 1 thing, but you sure don't want to just find a way all year long, you want to do it playing perfect."

This isn't new for Anaheim. The Ducks were 27-4-8 in one-goal games last season and 14-2-6 in them in 2012-13. They are 73-11-22 in one-goal games since Boudreau coached his first game with the Ducks on Dec. 2, 2011.

For this season, though, Boudreau traces the Ducks' success in one-goal games back to the points they gave away in November. From Nov. 7-18, the Ducks led in but ultimately lost four games during a six-game span in either overtime or the shootout.

"We had a talk that we have to learn how to play in these one-goal games because we were panicking like crazy," Boudreau said. "Then we started being more relaxed in the games and understanding what we had to do, how to play. Lately we've been behind and we've been pushing pretty hard. We were a panicked team when we had a lead. I think we've learned."

The Ducks have won 12 of 13 one-goal games since Nov. 20. They've still built and nearly blown a handful of multiple-goal leads (2-0 against the Vancouver Canucks, 2-0 against the Arizona Coyotes, 3-0 against the Calgary Flames, 3-0 against the Minnesota Wild), but they have found ways to get two points in all of those games.

It all may not seem like a recipe for sustained success, but the Ducks are halfway through their season and they haven't shown any signs of wilting in close games. If anything they're getting stronger.

They came back from a second-period deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in overtime on Dec. 22. They beat the Canucks 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 28 after scoring the tying goal in the third period. They traded goals for two periods with the St. Louis Blues this past Friday before scoring the lone goal in the third period for a 4-3 win. On Sunday, they didn't panic when down 3-2 to the Nashville Predators and wound up winning 4-3 in the shootout.

"I feel like I'm Roger Neilson back in the '70s trying to get these one-goal wins," Boudreau said. "We'd like a 5-1 game. I'd like to be able to roll all four lines and not shorten the bench, but we do what we have to do to win. Hopefully we can win by more, but sometimes we don't."

The interesting question for the Ducks now is can all these tight games prepare them for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the intensity is ratcheted up and the games are typically close.

Boudreau would like to think so, but he really has no idea.

"Because it's happening we're saying it's good preparation for the playoffs, but I don't know if it is," Boudreau said. "You're trying to find positives. I'm saying, 'Oh yeah it's good preparation for the playoffs,' but who knows. Once the playoffs happen everything is ramped up and we're hoping it's good, but until we get there I have no idea."

Boudreau is sure of at least one thing: The Ducks would have a better chance of getting a few more multi-goal wins if they improve their special teams. They are 23rd on the power play (15.4 percent) and 19th on the penalty kill (79.4 percent).

Anaheim is 1-for-27 on the power play in the past nine games and has allowed at least one power-play goal in 13 of its past 17 games.

"You add one power-play goal for or take one against away a game and all of a sudden you're doing a lot better," Boudreau said. "Our power play and penalty kill have not been as good as we would have liked it to be considering the players we have. We work on those two things more than anything else."

He's hoping the Ducks can work on correcting their special-teams issues this month, when they will be afforded more practice time than usual because they play only 11 games. January is their lightest full month of the season. They've had the past three days off and will have another three days off after playing the Rangers on Wednesday.

"In February and March we're pretty inundated with games," Boudreau said. "I'd rather get more practice time than resting guys, but sometimes when you have two days off these guys need maintenance days."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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