ANAHEIM -- And then there were eight.
That’s the number of points separating the Ducks from the final playoff spot in the Western Conference following a 3-2 overtime victory Wednesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at Honda Center, and it just happens to be the number of games Anaheim is facing on its upcoming season-salvaging trip.
The Ducks appeared to receive a nice send-off gift from the officials, who overlooked Corey Perry’s blatant trip on Hurricanes left wing Jussi Jokinen as he carried the puck out from behind his net midway through the five-minute overtime period.
Jokinen’s stumble resulted in a turnover and Perry quickly retrieved the puck. He passed it across ice to defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who made the wise decision to get the puck back to Perry, the league’s leading scorer last season.
Perry pocketed the one-timer in the Carolina net for the third overtime winner of his career, and afterward certainly didn’t feel bad about the missed call. For the record, Carolina coach Kirk Muller said he was told by officials that Jokinen had tripped on the back of the net. That’s not what many others saw, including an irate Muller and several members of the Ducks.
“We’ve had calls against us all year and maybe that’s a turning point for us,” Perry said.
If that’s not a turning point, the next two weeks certainly could be. The upcoming trip will take the Ducks, in this order, to Detroit, Columbus, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina. It’s a mixture of red-hot conference leaders (Red Wings) and struggling cellar dwellers (Blue Jackets, Hurricanes).
“Eight games is a long way,” Perry said. “It can make or break our season.”
Just having a shot to make something out of this season is a huge testament to how well the Ducks have played over the last five weeks. On Jan. 5, they were 20 points back of the final playoff spot in the West. Since then, they’ve gone 11-2-2.
“We’ve done a fairly good job in the last month or five weeks, and now we have a tremendous opportunity to make something big happen,” said Saku Koivu, who tied the score, 2-2, early in the third period with his 10th goal of the season. “At the same time, it’s a big challenge for us.”
The biggest challenge will come right out of the gate Friday night. The Red Wings won their 18th consecutive home game Wednesday, extending their franchise record. If the Ducks can steal a point or two in Detroit, their schedule will then take them to Columbus and Minnesota, two teams that have been losing a lot more then winning lately.
“We can’t afford to go lose two, three in a row,” Koivu said. “We’ve got to keep climbing and getting wins.”
Eight would certainly be enough on this road trip.