PIC OF THE GAME
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -At age 35, Scott Niedermayer needs all the open ice he can get. And with a 3-on-3 situation materializing in overtime, the Anaheim captain again made the most of the extra skating room.
Niedermayer scored at 3:37 of the extra period, and the Ducks got vital contributions from newcomers Erik Christensen, Ryan Whitney and Petteri Nokelainen to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 on Wednesday night and strengthen their playoff hopes.
Ryan Kesler scored his 20th goal of the season to force overtime but the Canucks couldn't take advatange of the three-on-three situation.
"It’s disappointing," said Kesler. "I think we got a little too excited about the power play at the end of the period, and gave up a breakaway. It’s a tough one, it’s a really tough one to take. We battled back hard and to give up a goal like that in overtime is heartbreaking."
Kesler got the equalizer with 4:58 left in the third period, poking the puck past Hiller after Demitra's pass from behind the net caromed off Mats Sundin and right to Kesler.
Pavol Demitra was sent off for hooking Ryan Getzlaf 2:13 into OT, but a penalty to Teemu Selanne for holding Mattias Ohlund negated the power play. The teams were skating 3-on-3 when Chris Pronger gave the puck to Niedermayer at the Anaheim blue line, and he outskated Daniel Sedin before beating Roberto Luongo to the stick side.
"I was just worried about not getting caught from behind and making a good shot," Niedermayer said. "Fortunately I kind of bobbled it. So I really didn't have time to think too much, which is probably good. I just went down and tried to get it up high."
The overtime goal was Niedermayer's second during a 3-on-3 situation in the last 12 games. On Feb. 11 at Anaheim, he did the same thing to the Calgary Flames in a 3-2 win. Niedermayer, has 12 goals in OT, the most among defensemen since the league adopted the overtime format in 1983-84.
"It was a special play by a special player that won it for us," coach Randy Carlyle said. "It's always enjoyable when you can find a way to win. We've worked hard in some games and had as many chances as we've had tonight and still come up empty."
Scored the Ducks game winner at 3:37 into overtime for his 11th goal of the year.
Made 32 saves on the night to help shut down the Canucks.
Scored a goal and had five shots on net in 22:28 of ice time.
The Canucks, who have lost two in a row after winning 12 of their previous 14, are fifth with 77 points but fall six points behind Chicago, who won in a shootout against Carolina tonight. Vancouver is now seven points back of Calgary for the division lead and are just three points up on the approaching Columbus Blue Jackets.
"Every point is important, especially this point," said Kesler. "Every game you want to get the two points and that’s the most important thing and we didn’t get that tonight. That’s not good enough and we’re not happy."
"If you look at the teams we’re going to be playing on our schedule, they’re all fighting for a playoff spot, they’re all the tenth to sixth place teams and they need every point so it’s up to us to make sure we distance ourselves from them," Wellwood said.
The victory gave Anaheim 70 points, tying idle Minnesota and Dallas for ninth place in the Western Conference, one point behind Edmonton and Nashville for the final playoff spot.
"It's a good win. Two points. For sure, we're happy about that, but we've got a long way to go," Niedermayer said. "It's nice to get back on the winning way. The fans deserve it. They deserve better than what they've got."
Nokelainen, Selanne and Getzlaf also scored, Christensen and Whitney each had two assists, and Jonas Hiller made 32 saves to help the Ducks snap a three-game losing streak.
Anaheim had two other goals disallowed, one by Whitney because the puck went in through the side of the net, the other by Christensen because of a penalty against Getzlaf for goalie interference.
Alex Burrows and Kyle Wellwood scored the other goals for the Canucks, who won the previous meeting 7-6 in a 13-round shootout on Oct. 31 in Anaheim. Luongo made 37 saves, the first time he allowed more than three goals in his last 12 starts.
"We wanted this win. We did a lot of good things to fight back. We battled twice to tie it up. And then to give up a breakaway at the end is pretty frustrating," Burrows said. "Right now, it feels like we gave up a point."
Kesler and Burrows reached the 20-goal mark on the same night, giving Vancouver three 20-goal scorers for the fourth straight season.
Hiller stopped all 12 shots he faced during Vancouver's first four power plays, and the first 22 overall by the Canucks, before they tied it at 2 at 10:37 of the second period on shots by Burrows and Wellwood 50 seconds apart.
Wellwood score his first goal in 21 games for his 15th of the year, although he almost didn't even know.
"I felt really fortunate that I got a goal tonight, it kind of slipped through his legs and it’s one that I’ll take," said Wellwood. "I saw it go between his legs and at that point you just hope that it ends up going over the line and when Pav put his hands up, I knew it was in."
The Ducks regained the lead at 13:21 of the period when Nokelainen converted a rebound after Luongo stopped Christensen's wrist shot from the top of the right circle. The goal ended a 42-game drought going back to last season for Nokelainen, acquired from Boston on March 4 for defenseman Steve Montador.
Selanne opened the scoring at 17:35 of the first period with his 21st goal and 573rd of his career, tying Mike Bossy for 18th place on the career list. Henrik Sedin attempted a backhanded clearing pass from the left corner and put it right onto the stick of Selanne, who carried it into the low slot and beat Luongo between the pads.
The Ducks made it 2-0 at 6:26 of the second period with Getzlaf's 21st goal and first in eight games. Whitney's wrist shot from the left point hit traffic in front of the net and Christensen pushed the puck over to Getzlaf, who had plenty of daylight to shoot at with Luongo out of position.
The Canucks head home for their next four beginning on Friday the 13th against the Los Angeles Kings.
Notes: Bossy played in 752 regular-season games - 366 fewer than Selanne. ... Over the previous three seasons, the Ducks were a combined 50-17-8 during the final 25-game segment of the regular season. They have begun this season's final 25-game stretch 4-6-1. ... This was the 19th time Vancouver has played the Ducks and Kings in back-to-back road games, and the fourth time the Canucks lost both of them. They won both the last time they were in Southern California on Oct. 30-31. ... Anaheim D Bret Hedican, who spent parts of six seasons with Vancouver, missed his fifth straight game because of back spasms. ... Anaheim is 20-1-0 when leading after two periods. The only blemish came against Detroit on Jan. 14, when the Ducks took a 3-2 lead into the third period at home and lost 4-3. ... Anaheim is 1-for-24 on the power play over its last seven games. ... Sundin has seven goals and 10 assists in 25 games for Vancouver since signing a one-year free agent deal Dec. 18.