Los Angeles Hockey: Niklas Hagman
February, 6, 2012
By Dan Arritt | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM -- Too bad the Ducks can’t play the Flames every game.
Anaheim won its 14th consecutive meeting against Calgary at the Honda Center, getting a goal from Niklas Hagman in the eighth round of the shootout Monday night, and goalkeeper Jonas Hiller made it stand up with his sixth save of the tiebreaker.
More importantly, the 3-2 victory in front of a season-low crowd of 12,096 moved the Ducks within 10 points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 30 games remaining. A month ago Monday night, they were 20 points back.
“We dug ourselves such a hole through November and December,” said Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, who scored in regulation and the shootout. “We have to approach every game where anything but two points is unacceptable.”
Looking at the schedule this month, the Ducks can make up ground in a hurry. They play 12 more games in February, only once with more than a day’s rest in between. The players realize they need to continue treating every game like it's the playoffs, something they’ve been practicing for a while now.
“We knew since New Year’s that pretty much every game is a playoff game,” said Hiller, who improved to 2-4 in shootouts this season. “It was really important tonight, but at the same time, we have another game coming up in a couple days, and we have tons of games the whole month of February.”
Calgary is one of the teams the Ducks would likely have to leapfrog to get into the postseason. That’s why giving the Flames a point after Anaheim had taken a 2-0 lead early in the first period wasn’t forgotten.
“It was tough that they came back and got one point," said Hagman, who notched his third career game-deciding shootout goal. "That’s a big thing too, but for us, we’ve just got to try and get those wins.”
At this point, the Ducks can’t afford to look in the past. There will be plenty of time for that if they fail to make the playoffs for just the second time in the last seven seasons.
“If we fall short at the end of the year, then we would really reflect on it, but right now we’re coming to the rink ready to play every night,” Ryan said. “If [Hiller] continues to be good, our line starts to get on a roll, we’re getting contributions from the third and fourth lines … I think we can do a lot of damage.”
And undo a lot of damage in the process.