The Anaheim Ducks' slog through November is a distant memory. So too are the calls for coach Randy Carlyle's ouster.
He's going nowhere, and neither is this team after yet another victory. With a 4-2 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday before 15,596 at Honda Center, the Ducks notched a season-best fifth consecutive win. The streak is almost inconceivable given the squad's dispirited showings last month.
The Ducks entered a five-game road swing shortly after Thanksgiving with just five victories in 17 outings. They ended the trip with four straight wins, and now that they're back in Southern California for a four-game homestand, they have another W and somehow, sit just one point behind the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division.
"This was a really good game for us ... we played with a lot of speed," said Jakob Silfverberg, who delivered an empty-net goal. "Our first period today was really good, we were playing with a lot of confidence and I think that obviously comes from building off earlier games.
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"We're playing really good right now and that's obviously a big boost for the whole team. We gotta keep it going."
Daniel Sprong, the Ducks' newest acquisition, showed just what he's capable of on the offensive end in his debut with the club. He streaked down the right boards and unleashed a dazzling short-side shot from the goal line that found the top of the net.
It was the Ducks' second goal in 21 seconds; Brandon Montour opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the point that goalie Corey Crawford couldn't see behind Rickard Rakell's screen.
The Ducks entered the contest with the 30th-ranked offense, but they've shown signs of breaking out recently. They erased a four-goal deficit Sunday to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. With Sprong in the mix – they dealt rookie defenseman Marcus Pettersson to the Pittsburgh Penguins to land the 21-year-old – they might have another scoring threat.
The Netherlands native skated alongside Adam Henrique and Nick Ritchie; all Sprong did was lead the squad in five-on-five scoring chances in 13:29 of ice time.
"I'm really excited for the new opportunity," said Sprong, a second-round draft pick in 2015. "This whole team is a great team."
The Ducks are finally showing it. They once seemed in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Now, they're playing team hockey. John Gibson was his usual self in goal: two goals allowed on 27 shots. And finally, the Ducks are winning the possession game.
After the Chicago Blackhawks' push in the second period with two goals, Ondrej Kase put the Ducks ahead for good in the third period with a short-side wrister after an outlet pass from Carter Rowney.
The Ducks' fourth-line center missed 20 games this season with an upper-body injury; he now has points in three of his last five games.
Kase's goal gave him seven points in his last nine games.