Not once since the Ducks distanced themselves from the Western Conference pack had goaltender Jonas Hiller recorded a shutout, but their plentiful production meant he never had to blank an opponent to be sure of a win.
Sunday night, with their legs tiring in their third game in four days, the Ducks needed him to get a shutout. And he did.
Hiller stopped 22 shots and Andrew Cogliano scored off a slick setup from Saku Koivu in the second period as the Ducks defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 1-0, at Honda Center to extend their winning streak to seven and long-term dominance to 17-1.
For the Ducks, who tended to let up defensively while they scored four or more goals in their previous six games, this was a solid indication that they can win while playing a defensive style too.
"It was a good game. It was a tight game. A playoff kind of game, I thought," said Hiller, who is tied for second among NHL goalies with 23 wins but ranks 15th in goals-against average (2.34) and 22nd in save percentage (.914).
"Not too many scoring chances on both ends, but definitely happy to get away with a win."
As the Ducks became only the fifth team in NHL history to win 17 or more games in an 18-game span and remained unbeaten in regulation at home (19-0-2), Hiller stretched his personal winning streak to 14. That matched the second-longest single-season streak in NHL history and put him three from the record set by Boston's Gilles Gilbert in the 1975-76 season.
"Whenever you have a goalie that confident in the net, the team automatically plays better," Cogliano said. "You feel good in front of him. You feel like you can take chances and maybe take a little more risk because he's playing so well. We've been going on this little run here because of him."
Their run was more like a trudge Sunday. They didn't have their usual speed or crispness and didn't have center Ryan Getzlaf, who sat out after taking a shot on his foot Saturday. He's expected to return Wednesday against Vancouver.
Forced into playing a tighter game, the Ducks responded well against the team that had eliminated them in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series last spring at Anaheim.
"Nobody was happy at the end of last year and it's nice to get a win against Detroit even though they're not in our conference anymore," Hiller said, referring to Detroit's move to the East. "But in the end, we want to win every game we can win against that team. We had a rough time last year."
Cogliano, Koivu and Kyle Palmieri essentially shut down the Henrik Zetterberg line, Detroit's biggest weapon in the absence of many injured players, and they produced the only goal they'd need in 23 shots on Petr Mrazek. A strong forecheck led to a turnover by Brendan Smith, and Koivu found the onrushing Cogliano with a pass that became the winger's 15th goal this season, at 12:42 of the middle period.
Hiller wasn't tested too sternly, but he and his teammates did their jobs.
"They're finding a way to win every night and we're not finding a way to win every night," Detroit Coach Mike Babcock said. "We would like to be more like them, to be honest with you."
Being them is pretty nice at the moment.
"These are the type of games that our team has to learn to win," Koivu said. "Good defensively. Maybe not playing our best but being able to kind of protect our net and score enough goals to win the game. This one felt good."
Twitter: @helenenothelenCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun