Exactly the type of bounce that rarely went their way early this season made the Mighty Ducks winners Saturday night.
Andy McDonald capitalized on the power play 15:31 into the third period to give the Ducks a 2-1 triumph over the Atlanta Thrashers at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
McDonald's third game-winning goal of the season tied him with linemate Teemu Selanne for the team lead, extended McDonald's point streak to seven games, equaling his career-high, and enabled the Ducks to stretch their winning streak to four, matching a season-high.
With five victories in their past six games, the Ducks (12-11-4) climbed above the break-even mark for the first time since November 12.
"Our guys worked extremely hard, and they deserved the result," Coach Randy Carlyle said. "Our players haven't cheated in any area, and we were rewarded for that."
The Ducks owned a 1-0 lead on the strength of a second-period goal by Joffrey Lupul and did not surrender a shot on goal through the opening 13 minutes of the third period until Atlanta's Ronald Petrovicky threw the puck on goal after skating out from behind the net. Ducks goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made one of his 20 saves, but Brad Larsen put the rebound just past Bryzgalov for his first goal of the season at 13:06. Lupul, whose goal streak reached three games, drew a holding penalty on Thrashers defenseman Shane Hnidy less than two minutes later. It took the Ducks 33 seconds to convert on the ensuing power play, albeit with some good fortune after a long Rob Niedermayer shot caromed into the slot.
"It bounced in the air, and kept bouncing," Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "Their guy had a couple whacks at it. Then I got a handle on it, but I sort of lost it, too. Good job by Mac to come into the spot to sniff it out."
McDonald, in the lower portion of the right-wing faceoff circle, picked up the puck off Scott Niedermayer's stick. Just before Atlanta defenseman Andy Sutton could check him, McDonald sent a shot along the ice that found its way between the pads of Thrashers rookie goalie Michael Garnett.
"When the ice gets bad like that late in a period, you're just trying to get a stick on it and get it through to the net," McDonald said. "We had some good chances there in the third period and just failed to capitalize."
Winger Petr Sykora, who had missed the previous five games because of a strained groin muscle, returned well aware that any game he plays with the Ducks could be his last
Before being hurt in practice November 21, Sykora was the subject of persistent trade speculation. The injury might only have delayed a potential move.
"Obviously, I hear it from people around hockey," Sykora said. "I read it in the paper. You do worry about it, but you can't, because you cannot control that. I've heard my name a couple times before and actually it didn't happen, so I don't know. That's not my decision."
Sykora, 29, played 13 minutes, 11 seconds, skating on the fourth line with left wing Todd Fedoruk and center Tyler Wright, and also manning a point on the first power-play unit. He had two shots on goal. Sykora has averaged nearly 28 goals over the past six NHL seasons, but has only four goals and 11 points in 22 games. He is making $3.116 million in the final season of a three-year contract.
Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, eligible to come off the injured-reserve list tomorrow against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, is unlikely to do so.
Ozolinsh skated Saturday morning for the first time since suffering a strained left knee a week ago in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
"It did not feel as good as I had hoped," Ozolinsh said.
In other NHL action: New Jersey 3, Minnesota 2 (SO); San Jose 5, Toronto 4; Montreal 3, Los Angeles 2; Calgary 3, Pittsburgh 2; Washington 5, NY Rangers 1; Nashville 4, Philadelphia 3 (SO); Florida 4, Chicago 3 (OT); Phoenix 8, Carolina 4; Boston 5, Edmonton 4 (OT).