ANAHEIM – Take away a team’s captain and its No.1 goalie and it usually puts it at a significant disadvantage. But not the Anaheim Ducks.
Despite the absence of captain Ryan Getzlaf and a less-than-healthy Jonas Hiller, Anaheim got stellar games Sunday night from Corey Perry and Frederik Andersen en route to its fifth straight win, a 3-1 decision against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center.
Anaheim was outplayed for large portions of the game and outshot, 36-23, yet converted its chances to re-establish its franchise record with eight straight home wins to start the season. The Ducks have matched last season's team record for best start through 19 games at an NHL-leading 15-3-1 (31 points).
While it’s far too early to make comparisons to Anaheim’s 2007 Stanley Cup team, Perry said there is a certain air with this group that he's sensed before.
"You look around this room and there's a lot of new faces, but there's a lot of guys in here that have a lot of character and that want to win, and that want to win, that want to prove that they go out there each and every night and work as hard as they can," Perry said.
Depth is Anaheim's calling card. The Ducks have won without Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Jakob Silfverberg, and this victory came with Mathieu Perreault filling in for Getzlaf, the NHL's third-leading scorer.
Before the game, Anaheim announced that Getzlaf was out with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. Reporters did not witness it, but Getzlaf apparently fell in the morning skate Friday, and coach Bruce Boudreau mentioned afterward that Getzlaf was nearly a game-time decision. But Getzlaf played that night and had his first career hat trick in a 6-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres. All three goals were scored in the first period.
"He wasn't feeling right today, so it made for an easy decision," Boudreau said. "This isn't Game 77 or the fourth game of the playoffs. It's Game 18, so we wanted to make the right play."
Andersen, recalled because of an injured Viktor Fasth, made 35 saves and became the first goalie to win his first six NHL games (6-0-0) since Damian Rhodes of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1991-1993. Fasth is on his way back from a lower-body injury, and it will force Anaheim to make a decision with three goalies.
"I'm not the GM," Boudreau said. "That's all I can tell you. It's a tough decision. We got three good goalies right now."
Vancouver rebounded well from a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night and shored up much of its defensive miscues, but finished its road trip 1-2-1. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin were held without a point for the third straight game and combined for two assists and a minus-7 in the four games.
"It's been a struggle," Vancouver coach John Tortorella said of the top line of the Sedins and Ryan Kesler. "We know what they are as people. We know what they are as players. It's been a struggle the past two, three games here. They're going to bounce out of it and they're going to be the players that we know they are."
The game-winning goal came when rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm executed a long outlet pass to Perry, who hit a streaking Emerson Etem down the left side and set up Nick Bonino to complete the tic-tac-toe sequence 51 seconds into the second period.
The Canucks were in a line change and Anaheim got in transition quickly. Tortorella called it a "bonehead read."
"We gave the middle away," Tortorella said. "It's something we stressed from day one about those quick odd-man rushes about taking the middle away, and we didn't. It cost us."
Perry scored Anaheim's other goal, when he cleverly headed down the puck and tapped it in behind Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack after Francois Beauchemin's shot hit Jason Garrison's skate and went off Lack's shoulder at 8:30 of the second.
"The goalie made a save and it just hit me in the head," Perry said. "It was just laying there and I had to whack it in. It was one of those things where you just don't quit on the play, I guess."
Andrew Cogliano scored on an empty net with 20.6 seconds left. Tortorella said he was satisfied with the third-period push and credited Anaheim's defense, which blocked 16 shots and got a strong game from the Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy pairing.
Anaheim didn't need to make a statement in its first divisional game against Vancouver, but only five of its previous 14 wins came against Western Conference teams that were above .500.
Nonetheless, Henrik Sedin sees progress.
"It is a tough division, but we have showed that we can play with the best," he said. "I don't think we came up to the standard where we want to be in the last two games, but we are still in the games and we are battling. But it wasn't enough."
There was confusion when the Ducks started Andersen. Boudreau had indicated he would start Hiller despite Andersen being undefeated, but Hiller was "under the weather," according to a team spokesman, and watched the game from the corridors of the dressing room.
Andersen came up big against a Vancouver team that came out with jump and outshot Anaheim, 13-5, in the first period, 20-5 early in the second and 29-16 after two periods. He denied Kevin Bieksa early in the second when Bieksa broke in on goal, and Anaheim caught a break when Mike Santorelli missed on the rebound try.
Andersen almost prevented Vancouver's first goal, but could not get over in time for Tom Sestito to bang in a great cross-ice pass from Brad Richardson inside the right post for his first goal this season and sixth of his career to make it 1-1.