Steve Rucchin had a nose for the net in one of the biggest games of the regular season for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Rucchin scored a shorthanded goal after missing three games with a broken nose, helping the Ducks beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Sunday for their club-record seventh straight victory.
"Anytime you miss a week, you really don't feel on top of your game," said Rucchin, Anaheim's third-leading scorer. "I felt a little sluggish in the first two periods, but it's amazing what a goal can do for your game."
The Red Wings made two defensive lapses less than a minute apart in the second period and one of them resulted in Rucchin's 23rd goal, which put them behind 2-0 at the 12:08 mark.
Captain Steve Yzerman coughed up the puck to ex-teammate Tomas Sandstrom, who went in alone on Chris Osgood and was stopped from 15 feet out in the slot. But moments later, with Anaheim rookie Antti Aalto serving a high-sticking penalty, Osgood went behind the net to clear the puck and Paul Kariya took it away from him.
Kariya quickly turned around and passed into the slot, where Rucchin hit the net before Osgood could recover. The assist was the 200th of Kariya's career.
"It was pretty much a gift," Rucchin said. "It was a great play by Paul. All I had to do was just make sure I hit the net and it was going to go in. Anytime you score, it feels great."
Teemu Selanne's eight-game goal streak was stopped, leaving him tied with Buffalo's Miroslav Satan for the NHL's longest streak this season. But the Ducks' all-star forward assisted on a power-play goal by Marty McInnis and set a club record with points in 16 consecutive games.
Sandstrom also scored and Guy Hebert made 33 saves as the Ducks won for the 13th time in 16 games (13-3-0). They are five games over .500 for the first time in their six-year history (30-25-9) and just one point behind the Red Wngs for the fourth seed in the Western Conference which would mean home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"Both teams battled and played like they hated each other, and that usually makes for a good game," Anaheim coach Craig Hartsburg said after watching his team end a six-game winless streak against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs.
"It was a great two points. It's good for our team to keep learning lessons against a good team like that. They play us as hard as anyone in the league, and that's why they've won two Stanley Cups."
With Sergei Fedorov serving the second game of a five-game suspension for slashing Zdeno Chara of the New York Islanders on Feb. 27, the Red Wings barely avoided getting shut out for the third time this season.
Yzerman scored his 26th goal on a power play less than 4@1/2 minutes into the third period while Anaheim defenseman Pavel Trnka was serving a slashing penalty. Vyacheslav Kozlov nearly tied the score with nine minutes to play, but hit the left post from 20 feet out.
The Ducks broke the game open when Detroit's Igor Larionov lost the puck in the Anaheim zone and McInnis went in on a breakaway. Osgood stopped McInnis, but Sandstrom shoved the rebound past him for his 11th goal with 2:41 remaining.
"McInnis has really helped their team out a lot," Yzerman said. "They've definitely got more depth and they're getting a lot of effective play out of other guys, so it makes a huge difference for them. They didn't have to rely on Paul and Teemu for their goals tonight."
Moments after drawing a holding penalty against Martin Lapointe, McInnis opened the scoring at 7:50 of the first period with his 18th goal and the 67th by the league's most successful power play unit.
Selanne was set up by Fredrik Olausson at the left of the net. Osgood slid across and turned aside two shots by Selanne, but McInnis banged the rebound past the fallen goaltender.
Selanne's assist on the play was the 28th point of his 16-game streak which is two games shy of tying Eric Lindros for the longest in the NHL this season. The last time Selanne was held without a goal or assist was Jan. 30 at Edmonton, before he went on to earn player of the month honors for March with 12 goals and 13 assists in 13 games.
Detroit had an opportunity to tie the score after the Ducks lost two of their defensemen with penalties 35 seconds apart. Trnka was sent off for boarding Kris Draper and Kevin Haller was whistled for hooking Tomas Holmstrom, but the Red Wings failed to get a shot on net during their two-man advantage and finished the game 1-for-8 on the power play.
"There were a few times in the game where they had some good chances, but we persevered," Rucchin said. "The way Guy was playing, they might have been a little hesitant to shoot the puck and were looking for the perfect play."
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