By Mike Coppinger/Los Angeles Times
The Anaheim Ducks can breath easy. Their four-game losing streak is over.
And the power play finally broke out of its season-long slump in a massive way.
Anaheim’s 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday snapped the team’s longest skid since they opened the 2016-’17 season with four consecutive setbacks.
“It’s been a long wait for our power play to awaken,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “I think tonight we were more determined to get pucks back on our entry. We moved the puck effectively and got the puck directed towards the net.
“We were more tenacious. We were hungrier for the puck.”
And the Ducks were again shorthanded, with John Gibson and Ondrej Kase unavailable after they suffered head injuries in Tuesday’s overtime setback to the Kings.
But the players who did suit up skated at a frenetic pace.
Hampus Lindholm (bank shot off Markstrom’s skate), Brandon Montour (wrister from the slot) and Jakob Silfverberg (one-timer) scored man-advantage goals to bring the 30th-ranked unit out of the doldrums.
The Ducks’ power play wasn’t just ineffective heading into the game. It was downright dreadful, with the team converting on just 10.6 percent of its 47 opportunities (four goals in 15 games).
So if this outburst is a harbinger of what’s to come, the Ducks just might be finding their game.
“We kind of told ourselves that we gotta go out and play with confidence,” said Silfverberg, who scored an even-strength goal 35 seconds after his PP tally to make it 4-1. Both goals came in the first two minutes of the third period, and effectively crushed the Canucks’ resolve.
“A little bit too much early in games we’ve been slapping the puck away and kind of shooting it from bad angles. Tonight we played with that confidence and it kind of showed. It opened up more space. Three (power-play) goals is a good confidence boost.”
Silfverberg was the star of the game, but the man who might have enjoyed the victory most was in net, until he wasn’t.
Ryan Miller’s first home start of the season (16,038 in attendance) came against the team he jettisoned this summer after seasons in Canada.
He swatted away 13 of 14 shots, but exited the game midway through the third following a collision and was replaced by Reto Berra.
Carlyle said Miller suffered a lower-body injury and he’ll be reevaluated Friday. So for now, with Gibson also hurt, it’s Berra’s crease. Since Miller was facing his former squad, he was scheduled to receive the start anyway, but he’s making a case for more playing time – if the injury isn’t serious.
He’s been superb during his three starts, and even at 37, its clear the former Vezina Trophy winner possesses plenty of game.
But with the Ducks’ injury luck, surely there’s worry that another key player will be sidelined for an extended period of time.
Miller already missed the team’s first 10 games with a left wrist injury. If he and Gibson are both unavailable going forward, the Ducks will be in crisis mode.
But that’s a problem for another day. For at least a night, the Ducks were flying high in all facets of the game.
They can let out a collective sigh for now, and hope the success carries over with three more games on the home stand.
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