ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA (TICKER) —The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim continued their march to the third playoff appearance in franchise history while dealing a blow to the Montreal Canadiens’ postseason hopes.
With the game tied, 1-1, after 48 1/2 minutes, Leclerc deflected defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski’s shovel shot from the high slot past goaltender Jose Theodore to snap Anaheim’s two-game home losing streak.
The goal was the first in 10 games for Leclerc, who remains hobbled by knee problems.
“Whatever I can do to help the team,” he said. “It’s been tough coming to the rink every day, knowing you’re only going to be half of what you are. In this day and age, you’ve got to get traffic going in front to score, you have to go for the deflections and the rebounds. The puck was shot and I was there. It’s been a while since I tipped in a puck.”
“Mike is the first to tell you how hard he’s worked in practice,” Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said. “What we get from him is a big, strong, intelligent player. It’s good to see him get the monkey off his back.”
Leclerc’s deflection initially was not detected, leading many to believe Vishnevski ended the league’s longest scoring drought at 203 games. But the Russian remained without a goal since October 29, 2000.
“I didn’t see how it went in,” Vishnevski said. “I just shot the puck on net. I’ve almost scored a few times. I’ve thought about it a number of times after a game.”
“It’s nice to see Vish have a part in the goal,” Babcock added. “He’s been getting better and better and better. Vish was one of our best players tonight. He’s never going to be an offensive juggernaut, but I think he has the chance to develop into an excellent player.”
Kjellberg added an insurance tally moments later as the Ducks jumped ahead of idle Minnesota for sixth place in the Western Conference.
“We played some of the top defensive teams in those games,” Gerber said. “Of course, it helps when we score two or three goals. Lately, I can’t complain about support. We scored four goals against Dallas and Carolina.”
Saku Koivu netted the lone goal for Montreal, which is winless in its last seven (0-5-1-1) and trails eighth-place Boston by six points in the East.
“We played a solid first two periods and started off good in the third, but we got down about four or five minutes and you can’t do that when you’re battling for a playoff spot,” Canadiens right wing Donald Audette said. “We still have some games left and you never know, so we’re definitely not going to quit. We have to win about 10 out of 15, but we have to start playing one game at a time and see where it takes us.”
“It’s frustrating because for the first 40 to 45 minutes, we played a pretty intense game and I thought we played well enough to win,” Montreal coach Claude Julien added. “But those mistakes we made in the third were very costly and seemed to be the story of our team lately. … Times are tough right now and we have to be able to battle through. … We have to find a way to win hockey games, it’s as simple as that.”
While in the right faceoff circle, Oates fed a pass to Kariya behind the net. Spotting Sykora cutting down the slot, the Ducks’ captain set up the Czech winger for his 25th goal at 18:07, giving Anaheim a 1-0 lead.
Oates’ assist was his 1,393rd career point, putting him five behind Jari Kurri for 15th place on the all-time list.
Just 30 seconds later, the Canadiens drew even.
Audette grabbed a loose puck behind the net and skated to the left side before dishing a cross-crease pass to Koivu. The Montreal captain put the puck past Gerber for his 17th tally.
After Leclerc put the Ducks ahead for good, Kjellberg took a pass from Steve Rucchin in the low slot and rifled a shot that beat Theodore to the glove side at 9:35 of the third to end an 11-game goalless skid.
“Rucch made a great pass from the corner,” Kjellberg said. “I got it in front and tried to put it up high. I think it went over his shoulder.”