ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – The Anaheim Ducks’ NHL-leading penalty kill has left opponents stone-faced all season. After turning that special-teams domination into offense to knock off the Dallas Stars, the Ducks had plenty to smile about.
Nate Thompson and Ryan Kesler each scored a short-handed goal, John Gibson made 25 saves and the Ducks defeated the Stars 3-1 on Sunday night to return to the top of the Pacific Division.
Ryan Getzlaf added an empty-net goal as Anaheim moved one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings. Both teams have four games remaining, including the fifth and final Freeway Faceoff of the season between the rivals Thursday night at Los Angeles.
“It was really our best game in a month and I thought we were a pretty determined group,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’d like to be able to continue to play at this level for the next four games, but for sure we know we can do it when we put our mind to it.”
Radek Faksa scored with 1:29 remaining and Antti Niemi stopped 22 shots as Dallas’ four-game winning streak ended. The Stars lead St. Louis by two points for the Central Division title and home-ice advantage in the Western Conference playoffs.
After more than 30 minutes of even play characterized by both teams’ inability to capitalize on promising chances, Thompson finally broke the deadlock. John Klingberg attempted a blind, backhand pass in the neutral zone that was easily picked off by Thompson, who scored on a backhand 12:14 into the second period.
“I managed to make one good move and he bit on it,” Thompson said. “Every now and then it’s there.”
Said Boudreau: “It was a great move. I don’t know where he’s been keeping it.”
It was Thompson’s third goal of the season — and third in three games, setting a career-best scoring streak.
“With my role I have to do all the little things first. If I do get goals it’s a bonus,” Thompson said. “Hopefully I don’t use them all up before the playoffs.”
Kesler came through with the Ducks’ seventh short-handed goal of the season 10 seconds into the third. Jakob Silfverberg snagged a poor pass by Patrick Sharp behind the net and fed Kesler between the circles, where he put the puck in over Niemi’s glove hand.
“It was kind of a set play off the draw there and it finally worked. Only been trying it for 80 games,” Kesler joked.
It was the first time Anaheim scored two short-handed goals in a game since March 3, 2015, at Arizona.
“Two mistakes and it’s 2-0,” said Dallas forward Jamie Benn, who had scored a goal in four straight games. “They’re mental mistakes and they killed us in this game. Five-on-five we were playing pretty good for back-to-back games, but the power play killed us.”
After the Stars staged a third-period comeback for a 3-2 win over the Kings on Saturday, their intensity carried over to hold the Ducks without a shot for the opening 6:45. However, a Dallas power play that had converted on 22.1 percent of its chances this season could not crack the Ducks on any of its four opportunities.
“They made mistakes,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got eight penalty-killers and so they are usually always fresh. They don’t get caught out there, and when that happens and you keep putting pressure on them sometimes you get a break. Tonight we got a break.”
NOTES: Anaheim forward Andrew Cogliano played in his 700th consecutive game, joining Doug Jarvis as the only players to do so to start their NHL career. Cogliano’s streak, which started on Oct. 4, 2007, is the sixth-longest in league history. Jarvis played in a record 964 straight games from 1975-87. … Ducks forward Corey Perry played in his 800th career game, joining Teemu Selanne as the only players in franchise history to reach the 800-game mark.
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