ANAHEIM, Calif. – If this was a trap game for the Anaheim Ducks, they got out of it just before the spring snapped.
One of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League ended a crammed stretch of seven games in 13 days against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with a rare five-day break staring it in the face. Yet, the Ducks scratched out a 3-2 win Monday to sail into the break sitting pretty.
Corey Perry's nifty backhand off goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at 8:44 held up as the game winner for Anaheim, winners of five straight and nine of 10. Jonas Hiller won in his first game back from a lower-body injury and helped Anaheim further its best start (12-2-1) in franchise history, outside of a 12-0-4 run by the 2006-07 Stanley Cup champion team.
"We knew it was going to be a tough test," Perry said. "Coming off a successful road trip, it's not easy when you come home and you got to play two nights later. We did what we had to do tonight, and we got away with two points."
Columbus pulled to 3-2 on Derick Brassard's goal with 7:54 left and got a 6-on-4 extra attacker advantage with 34 seconds remaining that ended with Saku Koivu blocking a point shot – another difference these more-defensive minded Ducks.
Hiller had become an afterthought because of the 8-0-0 start by Viktor Fasth, but coach Bruce Boudreau gave him the start and Hiller pulled a save with his back turned on Brassard in the first period.
"We could have been down 4-0 after the first 10 minutes, but he kept us in there until we battled back," Boudreau said. "His athleticism was great. Some of the saves he made, he shouldn't have made. But he did, and that was what we saw last year from January through March, and that's what makes him a great goaltender."
Former Hart Trophy-winner Perry has two goals in three games after he endured an 11-game goal-less streak at the start of the season, his longest since a 12-game drought in 2006-07. He said the lockout affected his timing, but it's changing.
"It's tough when you don't play for seven months and you're sitting around practicing," he said. "Hopefully it's coming back. The last couple of games it's felt a lot better. Hopefully it continues."
Anaheim woke up from a somnambulant start with a pair of goals in a 21-second span.
Bobby Ryan made a stretch pass to Peter Holland coming out of the penalty box and Holland wristed it right blocker side by Bobrovsky. Ben Lovejoy started the play with a great strip of Derek Dorsett in the Ducks' zone.
Anaheim continued to hem in Columbus. Captain Ryan Getzlaf helped get the puck out of the corner and used his long reach to put in a rebound from the right side of the goal.
Bobrovsky kept Columbus in the game with two clutch saves – a spread-eagle glove denial on Kyle Palmieri at the doorstop and a sliding pad stop on Daniel Winnik. At the other end, Brassard was cruelly thwarted twice - on Hiller's back save, and when Francois Beauchemin made a leg save in the crease.
The Ducks outshot the Blue Jackets, 14-3, over the final half of the opening period after Columbus jumped all over them with a 9-0 shot advantage in the first eight minutes. Vinny Prospal converted on a fluky bounce off Beauchemin and Prospal's chest before he poked it in 3:30 into the game.
But Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards lamented that his team couldn't do more in the first 20 minutes.
"It would have been nice to get that second [goal]," Richards said. "That's kind of what they do. They're a dangerous team. They score one, and the next shift is a huge shift. We have the puck on our stick a couple of times, and we just don't execute. It turns into a turnover, and now it's in the back of your net.
"We have to find ways to win games. We did a lot of good things, but in the end, it just wasn't good enough."
The pesky Blue Jackets' season slipped further. They are 0-3 on a six-game road trip and winless in six of its past seven (1-5-1).
"We got ourselves in a big hole and every game is crucial right now," R.J. Umberger said. "We need points badly. We're battling hard and playing some good games. Playing good is not enough anymore. We need points."
Artem Anisimov came out for warmups, but sat out a second straight game with a bruised foot. Sean Collins made his NHL debut and played on a line with Brassard and Umberger.