ANAHEIM – The night started out in miserable fashion for New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein but some persistence ultimately ended with redemption against the Ducks.
Klein shook off a first-period turnover by scoring both Rangers goals, including the winner with 6:41 left in regulation for a 2-1 victory at Honda Center that dealt the Ducks their first home regulation loss since Jan.17.
The Ducks (38-22-9) had gone 9-0-1 since losing at home to the Kings but they had trouble putting together plays in the offensive end and getting the puck past Rangers goalie Antti Raanta. Making the start instead of Henrik Lundqvist, Raanta stopped 22 shots.
Asked what he thought of his team’s attack, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said: “Not a lot quite frankly. I thought we passed up way too many chances to shoot. And we tried to be cute. When we’re a cute team and we’re not just getting pucks to the net, we’re not successful.
“Secondly, we’ve got to hit the net when you’re shooting it. We missed a lot of nets. When you don’t get a chance on the power play, it makes it a lot more difficult.”
Klein got the first two-goal game of his 11-year career when he drove to the net and was rewarded as Eric Staal’s pass struck off the skate of Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm and went right to his stick, with the puck going by goalie John Gibson.
And with that, the Ducks stayed four points behind the Kings for first place in the Pacific Division. They’re also only two points above third-place San Jose, which plays at Arizona on Thursday while the Ducks are idle.
Meanwhile, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau knows a choice must be made at some point with his two talented goaltenders. But in his mind, the Ducks have two strong options, so why not use them both right now.
Boudreau hasn’t gone wrong with either Gibson or Frederik Andersen, so the two are on a regular rotation. It was Gibson’s turn Wednesday night and the netminder was as effective as he’s been all season, stopping 21 shots.
Entering the game, Gibson was 16-9-3 with a 2.07 goals-against average – which was second in the NHL – and a .919 save percentage in 30 games. Andersen’s numbers are comparable, with a 19-9-6 mark, 2.23 goals-against and .921 percentage in 38 contests.
“I’m sure decisions are coming down the road but they’ve both played very well,” Boudreau said. “They’ve made it tough for anybody to decipher that one’s better than the other.”
So Boudreau has taken to having his goalies make two straight starts and then sit for two. The Ducks still have three weeks left in the regular season and it might be some time before the coach decides it’s time to pick one and prepare him for the playoffs.
“Every time we’ve done the two-game thing, the next goalie that comes in for game three has been great,” Boudreau said. “He’s had time to practice, he’s had time to rest up. You’re still playing 21/2 games a week if you look at it, four games a week plus every second day.
“So far, it’s worked so it’s no need to change it right now.”
The Ducks struck first at the 14-minute mark of the first. Corey Perry stole the puck from Klein in the offensive zone and immediately found a trailing Jamie McGinn, who shot off the pass and beat Raanta.
Klein found atonement early in the second. An effective shift by the Rangers’ fourth line ended with the veteran putting in a rebound created off a shot from Tanner Glass as Gibson got stuck in place on the initial shot and couldn’t get over to his left in time.
A slashing penalty by Ryan Getzlaf gave New York an opportunity to grab the lead but the Ducks killed it off, as they did with Clayton Stoner’s tripping infraction in the first. The Ducks had moved back into the top spot in the league with an 86.9 percent success rate on the penalty kill.
The Ducks also never got a chance to put their second-ranked power play to work.
Said Boudreau: “I think they deserved at least one.”
PIRRI READY TO SHOOT
Brandon Pirri got a prime spot for his Ducks debut as the winger lined up on the right side of Ryan Getzlaf and David Perron. Pirri had an immediate objective when it came to playing with those two.
“Shoot-first mentality,” Pirri said. “Those two are really talented and obviously have had a lot of success. … Just get open because they both can find you. If you’re not expecting it, that’s when the puck’s coming to you. Just always be ready to shoot.”
Playing alongside a top playmaker like Getzlaf had Pirri joking that “if you screw that up, there’s something wrong with you.”
Pirri, 24, had 11 goals and 13 assists in 52 games with the Florida Panthers. He also scored a career-high 22 goals last season and has a career 14.3 percent shooting percentage, although he’s at 9.9 in 2015-16.
“It’s something I work at a lot,” Pirri said. “It’s the NHL. You don’t get too many grade-A opportunities. For me, it’s just making the most of those opportunities. Obviously, playing with these guys, there’s probably going to be a couple more opportunities here and there.
“But you never want to waste them. You want to make the most of your opportunity here.”
With just 13 games remaining, Pirri wants to find chemistry as quickly as possible.
“Things are happening quick so there’s no time to hesitate,” he said. “For me, it’s just stick to my game and stick to what works for me. Jelling with my linemates.”
The Ducks again played without defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Sami Vatanen, while center Nate Thompson also remains out.
Bieksa could be the first to return as he skated with the team Wednesday morning. He’s dealing with a lower-body injury that occurred Friday in St. Louis. “He’s getting better,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think it would hurt for another day or two.”
Vatanen (upper body) sat for the third straight game while Thompson (lower body) has missed two in a row. Neither skated Wednesday and Boudreau said only that “hopefully it’s sooner than later” with regard to a potential return date.
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