The Associated Press
ANAHEIM, Calif.–Deep into their 80th game in a season riddled with injuries and setbacks, the Anaheim Ducks still weren’t certain they were heading back to the playoffs.
So the Ducks dug down deep and came out with the ticket to the Stanley Cup tournament.
And now that they’re in, their hard-earned resilience could be a nightmare for anybody in their path.
Ondrej Kase scored the tie-breaking goal on a rebound with 3:56 to play as the Ducks clinched their sixth-straight post-season berth with a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild last night.
Kase secured his first 20-goal season by jumping on a long rebound of Josh Manson’s shot before Andrew Cogliano added an empty-net goal.
Nick Ritchie also scored while Manson and Francois Beauchemin had two assists apiece as the Ducks officially extended the NHL’s second-longest streak of consecutive post-season berths–a streak they share with Minnesota.
“It’s very satisfying,” goalie Ryan Miller said.
“The guys certainly turned a corner,” he added. “We were grinding from the start.”
Miller made 26 saves in his first start since March 9 for the Ducks, who now have won eight-of-10 in their usual late-season surge.
Anaheim also leap-frogged archrival L.A. into third place in the Pacific Division, leading by one point with two games to play for both teams.
The Ducks’ streak of five-straight Pacific Division titles was ended by Vegas this season, but Anaheim’s veteran lineup remains a foreboding matchup for any playoff opponent.
The Ducks still have most of the core that reached the Western Conference final twice in the past three seasons.
“This whole year has been a bit of a struggle,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said.
“With the start we had, and the players we had out of the lineup, it was tough to see the big picture at that point,” he admitted.
“Our guys did a good job battling throughout the whole year. We accomplished one goal we wanted.”
Matt Dumba scored a power-play goal and Devan Dubnyk stopped 28 shots for the Wild.
When the St. Louis Blues’ 4-3 loss to Chicago ended during the first period in Anaheim, Minnesota was locked into third place in the Central Division–ensuring a first-round matchup with Winnipeg or Nashville.
The Blues’ result also clinched a playoff berth for the Kings.
Ottawa doubled Buffalo 4-2 in the only other NHL game last night.