ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Steve Rucchin can’t get back all the games he missed the last few seasons because of injuries. Instead of complaining about it, he’s making up for lost time.
Rucchin scored in the first period for his 400th NHL point, then got the go-ahead goal on a power play early in the third to give the Anaheim Mighty Ducks a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.
The 10-year veteran center played all 82 games last season for the first time in his career and scored seven goals in the playoffs, helping the Ducks come within one victory of the Stanley Cup.
But he was limited to 54 games over the previous two seasons because of a stress fracture in his left shin, a broken left hand, and a concussion caused by a slap shot that was deflected into his face by then-teammate Teemu Selanne.
“I’ve missed a lot of games, which is unfortunate. So at this point of my career I should definitely have a lot more points,” said Rucchin, who replaced the departed Paul Kariya as team captain this season.
“But I guess, on the plus side, it just means I’ve got that many more games in me. Last year obviously was nice, and this year—knock on wood—things are going fairly good up to this point. Another 82 games would be great.”
Anaheim got off to a quick start when Jason Krog and Vitaly Vishnevski scored 69 seconds apart in the first period for a 2-0 lead. Vishnevski also had two assists as Anaheim ended the Blues’ five-game winning streak.
Rucchin put the Ducks ahead to stay with 15:06 left, scoring his eighth goal while Bryce Salvador was serving a roughing penalty. Goaltender Brent Johnson stopped Stanislav Chistov’s shot, but Blues defenseman Alexander Khavanov failed to clear the rebound and Rucchin banged it home.
“That penalty in the third was a terrible call,” St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville said. “The teams are battling for the lead, and you have to let the players decide the game.”
It was the 18th two-goal game and third this season for Rucchin, whose first goal put the Ducks ahead 3-2 at 14:06 of the second. But Nickulas tied it less than two minutes later, beating goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a 15-foot wrist shot.
The Blues tied it 2-all at 17:06 of the first as Cajanek and Demitra scored 75 seconds apart against last season’s playoff MVP. Demitra’s came on a power play while Ruslan Salei was off for hooking Demitra.
“Things were obviously looking good for us, but that’s a good team over there. They don’t give up and they keep coming,” Rucchin said. “At times it was ugly, but it’s good to see that we’re starting to win these tight games. That’s the sign of a good team, which we have here.”
The Ducks scored on two of their first four shots against Johnson—starting for the first time in five games after watching Chris Osgood post two shutouts in St. Louis’ last three contests.
Krog converted a rebound of Vishnevski’s slap shot from the left point at 8:45 of the first. Johnson then fanned on a seemingly harmless wrist shot by Vishnevski from the right point.
“I wasn’t at the top of my crease like I should have been, and I thought I had it in my glove,” Johnson said. “It was one of those goals that you want back, but I thought I battled back pretty well. They got three goals onrebounds.”
Mike Babcock’s regular-season record as Anaheim coach is 47-34-10-9. Ron Wilson was 38-56-6 in his first 100 games as Ducks coach, and Craig Hartsburg was 43-41-15-1. … The Blues will start practicing at a new facility when they return home. … Anaheim’s next game is Tuesday at Colorado, where Giguere will attempt to end his 0-4 start on the road. … St. Louis’ Keith Tkachuk served the second game of his three-game suspension for cross-checking San Jose’s Rob Davison. Doug Weight completed his four-game suspension for hiscross-check to the head of Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin.