ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Anaheim Ducks, who spent the first half of the season atop the Western Conference, could be back there again soon if they keep getting timely contributions from Teemu Selanne and rookie Dustin Penner.
Penner scored the tying goal early in the third period and Selanne got the deciding goal in a shootout, leading the Pacific Division-leading Ducks to a 3-2 victory over the conference-leading Nashville Predators on Sunday night.
The point Nashville got in the defeat, coupled with Detroit’s overtime loss to Colorado, kept the Predators two points ahead of the Red Wings in the Central Division and four ahead of the Ducks.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Nashville’s Paul Kariya said. “We have 15 games left in the regular season, and we’re playing Detroit for the division. Anaheim’s a really good hockey club. They’re a tough team to play here, and we had a lot of key offensive players out. Our top three centers were out of the lineup, and it’s tough to play like that.”
“They’re the No. 1 team in the conference, so we wanted to see where we were at this point,” Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. “Obviously, they were missing a lot of players, but it doesn’t matter. We responded well to adversity today, we never quit and we always kept working. Good things happen to teams that do that.”
Selanne also scored his 39th goal of the season in his reunion with Kariya, his longtime Ducks linemate. Selanne, who eclipsed Kariya’s franchise records for goals and game-winners earlier this season, needs 20 points, 24 assists and three power-play goals to break Kariya’s club records in those categories.
Penner, who had scored the Ducks’ first goal in each of their previous three games, got the equalizer with 16:34 left in regulation as he redirected a one-timer from the left point by Chris Pronger past Tomas Vokoun for his 24th of the season.
It extended Penner’s goal-scoring streak to four games, the longest by a rookie in Ducks history. He could have had two, but he hit the right post from close range with four minutes left in the first period.
“I’m playing a lot different game now than I was in my first and second year as a pro,” Penner said. “You have to find that area of the game that you can hang your hat on, and mine is down low in the corners, using my size and creating space for other players.”
Kimmo Timonen and J.P. Dumont scored first-period goals for the Predators, who had a season-low 14 shots on net and none in OT—after scoring at least four goals in each of their previous six games. Kariya had their only goal in the shootout.
“It almost feels like a win, knowing we had an All-Star team sitting out right now,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “From that standpoint, it was a good character game for us. We’ll take the point.”
Center Rich Peverley made his NHL debut and set up Timonen’s goal at 8:48 of the opening period by winning a faceoff deep in the Anaheim zone.
Giguere, who shut out the Predators on Dec. 6 in Anaheim, surrendered Dumont’s 18th goal just four seconds before the end of the first period when Dumont’s rising 45-foot slap shot went off the top of the goalie’s stick. Kariya set up the goal, carrying the puck into the zone and leaving a perfect drop pass for Dumont that just missed hitting Selanne’s stick.
Selanne answered Dumont’s goal just 64 seconds into the second period. Chris Kunitz blocked Marek Zidlicky’s shot from just inside the Anaheim blue line and the puck caromed into the neutral zone, where Andy McDonald took off down the ice and got it to Selanne near the net as Zidlicky made an unsuccessful diving attempt to break up the pass.
“It’s another building block for us,” Penner said. “This game was a really good test and we showed a lot of character. We’re excited about being at home for the next 2 1/2 weeks, and we’re going to use the crowd.”
Monday is the sixth anniversary of the trade in which the Ducks sent Selanne to the San Jose Sharks for LW Jeff Friesen and G Steve Shields. Selanne returned to Anaheim as a free agent in August 2005. In between his stints with the Ducks, their record was 104-110-17 with 30 ties. … Kariya, Legwand, Sullivan and Scott Hartnell all are tied for the club lead with 22 goals—and Arnott has 21.