After a miserable start to the season, the Anaheim Ducks have climbed all the way back into playoff position. That might not seem like much in the jumbled Pacific Division, but for now they'll gladly take it.
Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler each scored a power-play goal, and the Ducks earned at least one point for the sixth consecutive game with a 4-1 home win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night.
Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry also scored, and John Gibson made 19 saves for the Ducks as they opened an eight-game homestand vital to their post-season hopes.
After taking the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to Game 7 of the Western Conference final last year, Anaheim started this season by winning just one of its first 10 games. Now, the Ducks are again playing like a team capable of a deep run.
"The start of the year wasn't easy for our group, and having gone through it, hopefully we appreciate where we are at now and continue to play this way," captain Ryan Getzlaf said.
Tyler Myers scored for the Jets, and Michael Hutchinson stopped 31 shots.
After sweeping Winnipeg in the first round of last year's playoffs, the Ducks won the first meeting this season with the kind of offensive outburst that had been lacking. Anaheim improved to 8-0-0 when scoring four or more goals this season.
"We've been playing a lot better on a consistent basis and now we're seeing some results," Getzlaf said. "Hopefully we can continue that. Tonight it paid off offensively."
Rakell scored 5:51 into the first period, capping a strong opening flurry of puck possession. His shot from between the circles seemed innocuous, but Hutchinson never reacted until it was too late.
There was nothing fancy about the Ducks' second goal, either. With Jacob Trouba in the penalty box for interference, Bieksa put a wrist shot past Hutchinson for his first goal of the season and a 2-0 lead midway through the period.
Perry made it 3-0 early in the second by firing in a slap shot on a 3-on-2 break.
Gibson picked up his first career assist on Perry's 14th goal of the season, only to see his scoreless streak end minutes later after a shot by Myers redirected off an Anaheim stick and in. Gibson had not allowed a goal in the previous 184:30, including consecutive 1-0 wins at Calgary and Edmonton. It was the third-longest streak in franchise history.
Kesler converted on Anaheim's only other power play late in the second, eventually cleaning up a breakaway miss by Chris Stewart. Bieksa had an assist for his first multipoint game since joining the Ducks last summer.
It was the 35th power-play goal allowed by the Jets, worst in the NHL.
"We were the slower team on the ice from start to finish, really," coach Paul Maurice said. "We had a few good chances, but not enough to warrant us being in that game."
And while Winnipeg couldn't get out of its own way on special teams one night after dominating San Jose in a 4-1 win, Anaheim's league-best penalty kill did not yield a goal in four opportunities.
Put it all together and the Ducks are inching closer to where they want to be.
"We're not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination but we are playing a little better," coach Bruce Boudreau said.