On Sunday, the Anaheim Ducks entered their game against the Calgary Flames in ninth place in the Western conference, right on the cusp of a playoff spot. The Flames sat in tenth and both teams had 83 points, but the Ducks had two games in hand on their opponents.
The race in the conference could not be tighter as all that separated fifth place from tenth was a mere three points, as of Sunday. The winner of this contest would have an edge on the other and create a bigger gap between the other team and their hopes at a playoffs spot. With the race as tight as it is, even on nights that any given team doesn’t play, their standing could change based on the results of other teams in the conference.
Also, depending upon the results of the Blackhawks/Coyotes and Predators/Sabres game, the winner of this game could be in a playoff position by evening’s end.
On Saturday night, the Ducks pulled out an overtime victory against their cross-town rival, the Los Angeles Kings. The Flames, on the other, are set to play the Kings on Monday night. The Kings currently sit in fifth place in the conference with 86 points.
“Just the amount of teams that are involved and the closeness of the race and the teams that are playing one another,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said about the playoff race. “You can always say this year is the most exciting.“
Sunday’s game started out well for the Ducks, getting goals from Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin, all in the first six minutes of play. The Flames got one toward the end of the first from Tom Kostopoulos and added another two in the second from Rene Bourque and Kostopoulos again, tying the game at 3-3 going into the third period.
Calgary was the first to strike in the third with a goal from Jarome Iginla, giving the Flames their first lead of the game.
As the clock wound down, tension grew in the Honda Center as the crowd grew anxious, hoping for another one of their team’s late comebacks. And they got their wish when Teemu Selanne scored a power play goal with two minutes left in regulation.
The game went into overtime and halfway into the five-minute period, Bobby Ryan was awarded a penalty shot, but he was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. However, Perry scored off the post penalty shot faceoff in the Flames zone and the Ducks got the 5-4 win, in their second of back-to-back OT wins.
After all of Sunday night’s games were finished, the Ducks had crept back into eighth place in the playoff race, but they definitely can’t feel secure. With a mere 10 games left on their schedule and all of them against Western conference opponents — and all but one of the teams in playoff contention — the next three weeks will certainly not be an easy ride for the Ducks.
“You look at the schedule and you’d never think or you’d never imagine the way the season has gone, (that we) have to play (these teams) as many times as we do, and specifically in the last 10 games,” Carlyle said.
The Ducks travel to Dallas to face the ninth place Stars on Wednesday night.