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Ducks hand Sharks first regulation loss

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The seasonal arc of the Anaheim Ducks in recent years is typically an awful start followed by a red-hot second half.

By that calendar measure, they're right on time in this shortened season.

Their latest triumph was a gutty (and lucky) 2-1 decision Monday night that ended San Jose's eight-game points streak (7-0-1) and further provided evidence that it might be time to buy in to Anaheim's hot start.

Sheldon Souray unleashed his signature slap shot from above the left circle with 6:39 remaining and the Ducks killed a power play and a 6-on-5 extra attacker advantage in the final two minutes for their best start (6-1-1) since the 2007 Stanley Cup champion team began 6-0-2.

It also took a fluky bounce for the score-tying goal to fell the Sharks, but those are the kind of breaks Anaheim didn't necessarily get in seasons past.

"Right now it seems we're finding ways to win games even if we're not maybe playing our best," Saku Koivu said. "Scoring-wise, we're deeper in a way. We can roll four lines. I think we're playing tighter defensively as a team. Our power play is not clicking that way we want it. Our PK is not playing as well as we should be playing, so if we can get those two things going it's going to be huge for us as a team.

"But right now it seems that we can kind of maintain a calm composure. Sometimes teams are pushing, pushing and we're kind of able to get pucks away from our zone and kind of maintain that composure. That maybe wasn't the case last year or a couple of years ago. We're so much more consistent."

Souray's shot ramped off the blade of Scott Gomez before it found the upper net for the game winner. Anaheim is 1-0-1 against San Jose this season and 7-1-1 against it in the past nine meetings.

"I think it just shows we can compete with every team in the League," Souray said. "San Jose's a great team. We played them hard last game and didn't get the results. We wanted to play hard tonight and try to get a different result, and we did that. We had everybody going. Our goaltending was amazing tonight and really gave us a chance to win."

Viktor Fasth stopped 25 shots as the 30-year-old rookie became the first goaltender in Ducks history to win his first three NHL games. His poke check on Patrick Marleau's partial breakaway attempt in the third came during an Anaheim 5-on-3 power play.

A quirky bounce off the end boards gift-wrapped the score-tying goal for Anaheim fewer than four minutes into the third period. Tommy Wingels' pass behind the net popped out to the crease and Koivu poked it in with an oblivious Thomas Greiss still searching for the puck.

Koivu didn't know it bounced off the boards until reporters told him.

"Very surprised – pleasantly surprised," Koivu said. "Those things don't happen very often. You might get them once every couple of years and tonight was the night."

San Jose extended its penalty kill streak to 27, but its fourth-ranked power play went 0-for-6 against Anaheim's No.29 penalty kill. The Sharks had been 34-1-4 when leading after two periods, dating back to the beginning of last season.

"We have to find a way to get a point out of that game," Logan Couture said. "It's disappointing. They found a way to win and we didn't. We should have got that one."

Greiss and Fasth stood ground during a combined five power plays in the second period. Fasth stopped Marleau from the left side and Greiss stretched over to thwart Teemu Selanne's wraparound. But the most impressive save was perhaps by Jason Demers, who managed to get his stick on Andrew Cogliano's attempt at a wide open net during Anaheim's big flurry.

Anaheim went scoreless on two first period power plays and San Jose turned around and forced a turnover that led to Couture's sixth goal. Toni Lydman had the puck taken from behind the goal line and Andrew Desjardins' shot deflected on net before an unchecked Couture grabbed it in the crease and backhanded it in at 18:08.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan thought his team handled the Koivu goal well but was obviously concerned with the special teams.

"I thought that let us down tonight," McLellan said. "That was, and has been, and will be, a huge part of our team. We didn't get it done six times. We had every opportunity to at least put two up on the board and we just didn't do our thing."

The teams combined to go 0-for-11 on the power play and it didn't help that both teams were missing top offensive defensemen. Dan Boyle was scratched with the flu and Cam Fowler with an upper-body injury. Boyle also missed the Jan. 29 game against Anaheim because of the flu.

San Jose will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. Chicago is now the only team remaining in the NHL without a regulation loss (7-0-2).

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