It was almost exactly a year ago that Todd Marchant was cast aside by the Columbus Blue Jackets because they needed salary-cap room to bring in onetime NHL most valuable player Sergei Fedorov.
The Ducks happily claimed Marchant off waivers and have been a different team since. Friday's game offered more proof.
Marchant scored while the Ducks were short-handed to break a third-period tie and had an empty-net goal to lead them to a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils in front of an announced 16,599 at the Honda Center.
The game was the first between Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer and the team he helped to three Stanley Cup titles in his first 12 NHL seasons. But Niedermayer was in the penalty box for hooking when Marchant's moment arrived at 9 minutes 23 seconds of the third.
The 5-foot-10 center won a battle along the boards with New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin and got the puck to a streaking Travis Moen. Moen drew two defenders before passing back across the ice to Marchant, who beat a sliding Martin Brodeur.
"There were a couple of guys ahead of me, but they kind of got focused on the puck and [Moen] made a great move on the defenseman and slid it across," said Marchant, who has the Ducks' two short-handed goals this season. "I wish I could say that I knew how it went in."
The Ducks (16-2-6), who set an NHL record with points in their first 16 games this season, have picked up points in their last five games and are now six ahead of second-place San Jose in the Pacific Division.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 23 saves Friday for his league-leading 13th victory, outdueling Brodeur, who had 33 saves.
"Any time you can get a goal by Marty Brodeur, who's one of the best goaltenders in this league, it's a good feeling," Marchant said. "It's a better feeling to get two points and keep this thing rolling."
Columbus, which had signed Marchant in the summer of 2003 to a five-year contract worth $2.9 million annually, deemed him expendable upon acquiring Fedorov from the Ducks last year.
Marchant was picked up by the Ducks a few days later, essentially being the third player they received from the Blue Jackets in the trade. His biggest contribution came in the postseason with 13 points in 16 games.
"A lot of people would look at him as [someone] that was cast into a third-line role, and we say that he's expected to deliver more than third-line numbers," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. "When we acquired him, [the reaction] was like, 'Oh, here we are, we're just getting another player.' But our respect factor was there. He's done nothing to disappoint."
The Ducks have a 52-19-14 record since Marchant, 33, arrived. Niedermayer and Chris Pronger have had a notable part in that, but Marchant has ably filled his role as a defensively sound center and key penalty killer who can score from time to time.
"He's a true professional," Niedermayer said. "He's a great example for everybody in this room. He comes to work every day and does the ugly jobs, the difficult jobs, and does them very well."
Goals by Dustin Penner and Samuel Pahlsson gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead in the first, but Patrik Elias cut the lead in half late in the period and Brian Gionta tied the score early in the second.
The Devils pulled Brodeur with 90 seconds left and had several cracks at the tying goal during a mad scramble that found Giguere, Niedermayer and Marchant all in the crease.
"At the end, I didn't know where the puck was," Giguere said. "I was just trying to be as big as possible on the ice.... But you've got to give credit to the guys. They battled really hard in front of me to get that rebound out."