ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Anaheim Ducks’ roster is an injury-plagued mess, and they haven’t won a game by more than one goal in nearly seven weeks.
The Ducks are still leading the entire NHL, thanks to a team-wide tenacity that the Edmonton Oilers just couldn’t match.
Matt Beleskey scored his 14th goal and Frederik Andersen made 21 saves in Anaheim’s fifth consecutive victory, 2-1 over the spiraling Oilers on Wednesday night.
Ryan Kesler also scored for the Ducks, who held off last-place Edmonton’s late charge for their eighth win in 10 games. Anaheim (19-6-5) is three points ahead of Detroit in the overall standings despite the absence of top goal-scorer Corey Perry, who has the club’s latest major injury.
“We have a lot of good players on this team, and experience makes players better,” said Kesler, who has 10 goals in 30 games with his new team. “When guys go down, guys have opportunities, and they make the most of it. We don’t let much define us in here when we deal with adversity — or the mumps.”
The Ducks’ last 12 victories were by just one goal, and they hung on to that slim lead yet again after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored early in the third for Edmonton, which has lost 13 of 14.
“I think if you want to win championships, you have to be a good defensive team and you have to win close games,” said defenseman Hampus Lindholm, whose sublime outlet pass set up Kesler’s goal. “We can always be better, but we did enough to get a win.”
The Ducks won their second straight game without Perry, who is out until January with a sprained knee. Major injuries have been commonplace this season for Anaheim, which has already lost 192 man-games with a quarter of its opening-night roster on the injured list.
“There’s definitely a lot of opportunity out there, and we’re just trying to take advantage of it,” said Beleskey, who is tied for seventh in the NHL in goals.
Former Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth stopped 32 shots for the Oilers (7-17-5), who are tied with Carolina for the fewest points in the NHL.
“We played a good road game,” Fasth said. “Freddy was good in net at the other end, but I still think we could have a little more traffic in front of him and make it harder for him. … It’s small things, and we have to look at those small details to become better. We’ve got to start winning.”
After Anaheim took an early 2-0 lead, Andersen hung onto it with a series of sharp saves. The Danish goalie even earned an assist on Kesler’s goal.
Edmonton has just one victory since Nov. 9 and has already fallen 24 points behind Anaheim in the Western Conference race.
“Third game in four nights, and we had the ability to stay in the game,” Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. “It’s hard to really single out anybody for a bad night. I thought our guys worked hard against a team that had been sitting here waiting for us for a few days.”
Beleskey put the Ducks ahead during a first-period power play, converting a one-timer after sharp passes from Kyle Palmieri and Rickard Rakell.
Midway through the second period, Lindholm sent a long pass to Kesler, who outskated Taylor Hall and beat Fasth with a clean wrist shot. Kesler has four goals in three games after a nine-game drought.
NOTES: The teams meet again in Edmonton on Friday. The Ducks played road games in Minnesota and Winnipeg last week before flying home for this game — and then starting a five-game Canadian road trip. … Rakell has assists in both games since his return from a demotion to the AHL. The Swede had just three points in Anaheim’s first 17 games. … Anaheim hasn’t won a game by more than one goal since Oct. 24.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.