ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -The Anaheim Ducks have been treading water for half a season. If they are going to make any kind of a move toward the playoffs, they know now is the time.
|Manny Malhotra returned to the lineup after missing six games with a sprained knee. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)|
Chris Pronger and Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and an assist, leading the defending Stanley Cup champions to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night in the opener of a seven-game stretch that will include six at home.
"We have a great team here with a lot of good players and a lot of guys who know what it takes to win," goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "Having said that, we still need to work hard and sacrifice ourselves to get wins. And tonight was a good start in that direction."
Giguere made 26 saves. The only puck that eluded him was Andrew Murray's first NHL goal at 15:59 of the first period.
"That's what we needed in our own building. We need to be stingy and not give the other team too many scoring chances," Giguere said. "They had some good shots, but I focused on making the first save and my defensemen did a great job taking the rebounds away. When we do that, we usually find ourselves in a good position."
Anaheim is 5-2-1 since playoff MVP Scott Niedermayer returned to the lineup and center Doug Weight was obtained in a trade that sent Andy McDonald to St. Louis.
|Joakim Lindstrom, Andrew Murray and Sergei Fedorov celebrate Murray's first NHL goal in the first period. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)|
"Scotty's accolades speak for himself. Just having his experience and leadership can only help your team," Pronger said. "It gives us another weapon on the back end, and another guy to kind of quarterback the power play from the half wall. Certainly from Dougie's perspective, he's played on some good teams, he's won a Cup in Carolina and performed well in the playoffs. He solidified that second line and gives us another element there."
Pronger, who beat the Blue Jackets with an overtime goal on Dec. 10 at Columbus, snapped a 1-1 tie with just 14.7 seconds left in the second period and Sergei Fedorov serving a hooking penalty.
The Ducks' captain took what appeared to be a routine slap shot toward the net from the left point, and defenseman Ron Hainsey made a move to glove the fluttering puck. But as he jerked his hand away at the last instant, it deflected off him and past goalie Pascal Leclaire's glove.
"He didn't want to grab it because it was coming in hot," Pronger deadpanned. "Those are bounces that you get sometimes. For a while, those were going against us. It wasn't our best effort or the prettiest effort of the year, but when you get the results and are able to win games like that, it helps you move in the right direction."
Leclaire was frustrated by the bad bounce on Pronger's eighth goal of the season.
"It's just bad luck and it's nobody's fault," Leclaire said.
The Blue Jackets reached the midway point of the season 18-16-6, just three points behind Anaheim after finishing 37 points behind them last season.
"The difference in the game was that their best players were their best players when they needed to be," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Our goalie gave us every chance to win. It was the same old picture - we don't score enough."
Getzlaf opened the scoring at 3:03 of the first with his 15th goal, getting a step on defenseman Adam Foote and beating Leclaire to the stick side with a short backhander after he was sent into the zone with a lead pass from Francois Beauchemin.
The Ducks are 104-57-27 in the regular season since obtaining Beauchemin in a trade that sent Fedorov to Columbus on Nov. 15, 2005. The Blue Jackets are 81-88-17 since the deal went through.
"Ever since Beauch has been here, he's been a physical force and he makes good decisions with the puck," Getzlaf said. "He plays a lot of minutes for us and quality minutes, and that's what we're going to need from him down the stretch. He's also got that big shot. And if that thing gets going, he'll score some goals as well."
Murray, a 26-year-old center selected 242nd overall in the 2001 draft, tied it when he converted his own rebound after pouncing on a loose puck just outside the Anaheim blue line. He was playing in his third NHL game, after getting promoted on emergency recall from Syracuse of the AHL on Dec. 27, when Manny Malhotra and Michael Peca were placed on injured reserve.
Malhotra returned to the lineup after missing six games with sprained knee. Peca, who took a blow to the head in a loss to Nashville on Dec. 23, missed his fifth straight game and David Vyborny sat out with a groin injury.
Notes: Ducks LW Brad May, who rode in the City of Anaheim float with the Stanley Cup in Pasadena's annual Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day, missed his seventh straight game with a broken right foot. ... Anaheim has not allowed a third-period goal in its last eight home games. ... Eight of the previous nine meetings between the Ducks and Blue Jackets were won by the visiting team. Columbus opened its season with a 4-0 home win against Anaheim.