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Ducks rally to beat Blues 4-3

by Curtis Zupke
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau joked earlier this season about putting together the oldest line in the NHL with Jason Blake, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne.

The trio is a combined 116 years old and might be called the AARP Line. But they still have plenty of game left, and it was fitting that the 38-year-old Blake got the Ducks over the hump after Anaheim's kids helped the Ducks keep pace with the St. Louis Blues.

Blake scored with 5:54 remaining as Anaheim showed it still has some pride left in a lost season by beating the League-leading Blues 4-3 at Honda Center on Wednesday night.

Blake's game winner was a veteran play – just throw the puck on net. His shot from the corner hit Ian Cole's right skate as Cole was trying to hold off the 41-year-old Selanne in the crease and deflected past Jaroslav Halak.

It came after goals by youngsters Cam Fowler, Nick Bonino and Devante Smith-Pelly erased deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2.

"The game's changed," Blake joked about the old-young juxtaposition. "Obviously the young kids are getting to play, and it's been great. They've done a great job. For us, we just want to keep going. Being an older guy, you just want to do as much as you can in the next seven games."

Jonas Hiller made 35 saves in his 68th start of the season, tying a franchise record set by Guy Hebert in 1999-2000. He preserved a 3-3 tie with a pad save on T.J. Oshie in the third and made impressive stops earlier on B.J. Crombeen and Jamie Langenbrunner.

It was only the fifth victory since the trade deadline for Anaheim, which is all but mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. But the Ducks are determined to keep competing.

"I think that's the professional thing to do," said Blake, a pending free agent who could be playing his last games as a Duck. "We're just trying to win hockey games. It doesn't matter if you're in it or out of it. We got a great group of guys in here and we've got great leadership."

St. Louis, the only team in the League to reach the 100-point mark so far this season, suffered a rare loss. It was 37-0-1 when scoring at least three goals this season. But the Blues have struggled mightily in Anaheim with just two victories in their last 18 visits.

Halak allowed four goals for the first time since Dec. 18.

"It's uncharacteristic of us to blow three one-goal leads, let alone just one one-goal lead," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "We've been really good at that all year. A couple of mental mistakes and mental breakdowns cost us tonight."

Added forward David Perron: "We just can't have that happen. We need more compete defensively and offensively and obviously we can't let goal-leads like that slip away every single time."

Anaheim's developing young forwards are a focal point down the stretch, and both Bonino, 23, and Smith-Pelly, 19, continued to impress.

Smith-Pelly chipped in a pass from Ryan Getzlaf to tie the game 3-3 at 7:50 of the third. Bonino swooped in and roofed a rebound over a helpless Halak at 6:03 of the second.

Smith-Pelly's goal gave Anaheim new life after Perron put St. Louis up 3-2 when he dived to put in a deflected shot by Kevin Shattenkirk. Bonino's goal came after a first period that saw St. Louis take a 15-5 shot advantage and a 2-1 lead.

That kind of resiliency from his young players pleased Boudreau.

"They're fighting hard not only for opportunity for next year but they're fighting hard for this year," Boudreau said. "It bodes well for their character. Let's face it, that team hasn't lost in how many years … when they scored three goals? So you knew as soon as they got their third goal, they had a tremendous amount of confidence that they'd be able to shut the door but we kept coming, so it's a good sign for us."

Despite a 10-2-1 run in his team's previous 13 games, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock has been concerned about managing the puck better, and he gave out low grades in a brief postgame scrum.

"Same stuff we've been doing before," Hitchcock said. "We're soft in our own zone, soft with the puck. We've been doing this for a little while and paying the price now.

"It's easy when the puck's in the opposition's end like it was in the first period but it was in our end a little more and we didn't compete hard enough. We didn't compete on the puck. We didn't compete for the puck. We made poor reads. We've been doing that for a little while and we been getting away with it, but we haven't been getting away with it tonight."

David Backes put St. Louis up, 2-1, with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that went top shelf with Hiller screened by teammate Francois Beauchemin.

Jaden Schwartz, 19, is having an impressive start to his NHL career with two goals on his first two shots in his first two games. After scoring on Saturday in his NHL debut, Schwartz hustled to pounce on Alex Pietrangelo's rebound in front and beat Hiller for a 1-0 lead at 7:00.

Anaheim tied it on a power-play goal by Fowler – his second goal in four games after he went scoreless from Dec. 5 to March 14.

Anaheim scratched Toni Lydman (upper body) for the third straight game.
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