Ducks center Saku Koivu celebrates after his first-period goal against… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)
Saku Koivu insisted his tip of Ben Lovejoy's shot 51 seconds into overtime to give the Ducks a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday at Honda Center was "more luck than anything else," but anyone who has watched the Finnish center through his distinguished career knows better.
Koivu, who had scored his 250th goal in the first period while the Ducks were shorthanded, works for his good fortune. His diligence and dignity have contributed enormously to establishing a tight connection he has established with wingers Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano on what has become the Ducks' most effective line at both ends of the ice. And his savvy was key Saturday in allowing the Ducks to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 10 games and regain the No. 1 overall spot in the NHL.
"It is something to be proud of. We wanted this 10th win," Lovejoy said after the Ducks had stretched their standings-points streak to 11-0-2 and goaltender Jonas Hiller tied a franchise record with his eighth consecutive victory. "This was a big one."
Koivu and his teammates could have been deflated after the Coyotes pulled even at 2-2 by scoring twice late in the third period, first when Martin Hanzal picked up an odd carom off the boards at 15 minutes 26 seconds and again when Mike Ribeiro deflected Keith Yandle's point shot with 43.8 seconds left and goaltender Thomas Greiss replaced by an extra skater.
But they had no time to waste on self-pity.
"You're trying to forget what happened," Koivu said. "We had a 2-0 lead and they got a lucky bounce on the first goal. It's one of those things where you're trying to regroup as quick as you can and you knew there was a good chance there was gong to be an overtime, so you start thinking about that. You really don't have a choice then."
He chose to lead the team's push for a second point and a 14-0-2 home record, keeping the Ducks as the only NHL team that hasn't lost in regulation at home.
Koivu beat Antoine Vermette on a faceoff in the first minute of four-on-four play and headed to the net while defensemen Lovejoy and Cam Fowler controlled the puck. Lovejoy shot it and Koivu got enough of it to redirect it past Greiss.
"You try to get open and you try to get your stick in there and try to get in front of the goaltender and we got lucky on that one," Koivu insisted.
Lovejoy wasn't buying Koivu's attempt to downplay the difficulty of that effort.
"I wish I could play every shift the rest of my career with him. He's that good in all facets of the ice," Lovejoy said of the 39-year-old Finn. "He's so good defensively, he makes everything easier and he really had a big game tonight."
Koivu had given the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 17:08 of the first period, taking a pass from Winnik and going to the far left side to beat Greiss for his 11th career shorthanded goal.
Cogliano made it 2-0 at 5:04 of the third period when he redirected a shot by Winnik, who had gotten a pass from Koivu, and the Ducks appeared to be cruising.
But the Coyotes made it 2-1 after Hiller came out to play a dump-in and the puck caromed into the slot, where Hanzal pounced on it. Hiller got a piece of it with his stick but not enough.
The standing-room-only crowd of 17,442 groaned when Ribeiro tied it. Inwardly, the Ducks did the same.
"For 55 minutes there we were really good and we felt like we weren't giving them much," Cogliano said. "You get an odd goal and you let down a bit but the bottom line is you get the win, no matter how you do it. It's a big two points for us."
They couldn't have done it without Koivu, who has four goals and seven points in his last five games.
"Even though there are a lot of good things we're trying to find a bit more consistency when things are going well to push it a little more," he said. "But 10 wins is not easy, and is something we can build on."
TONIGHT AT SAN JOSE
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Etc.: The Ducks lead the NHL with 31 points on the road, including a six-game road winning streak that's one short of their club record. The Ducks also have points in seven straight road games (6-0-1), also one from tying the club record. The Sharks won the teams' previous meeting this season, 4-3, in a shootout on Nov. 30 at the SAP Center in San Jose. Teemu Selanne won't play in San Jose and the Sharks' Martin Havlat (upper-body injury) is expected to also sit out.