Anaheim Ducks left wing Andrew Cogliano, left, and Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons, right, race for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo
February 25, 2016

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Goaltending is a big reason why the slow-starting Anaheim Ducks are suddenly challenging for a fourth straight Pacific Division title.

Frederik Andersen made 26 saves in his fourth career shutout, Sami Vatanen scored on a power play in the second period and the Ducks beat the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 on Wednesday night.

The Ducks equaled a season best with their sixth straight victory and climbed within two points of the division-leading Los Angeles Kings. Anaheim is 20-4-2 since losing back-to-back road games against the Islanders and Rangers on Dec. 21-22.

''It's good, especially in a 1-0 game. You just want to make sure you get the win,'' Andersen said after his first shutout since his 47-save effort on Jan. 27, 2015 at Vancouver.

''I got settled in pretty much right away. And the way we defended was pretty good. We didn't really give too much to them. You've got to take the wins any way you can, but preferably you want to play solid defensively.''

Five of Anaheim's six shutout wins have been by 1-0 scores, three of them by John Gibson and the other by Anton Khudobin.

''A 5-4 game is a different mentality than 1-0. You have to be way more conscientious,'' coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''When it's 1-0, you don't want to let anybody down. The mentality is like: `Let it not be me that makes the mistake that gives them an opportunity.'''

The Sabres went on a 3-on-1 rush with about 4 1-2 minutes left in the period, but Andersen made a glove save on Evander Kane's 30-foot wrist shot from the left circle. Andersen then stuck out his left leg at the last instant to rob Justin Bailey on a backhanded rebound attempt from the edge of the crease.

''When Freddie's on, he can make the save that nobody can make. We've seen it time and time again,'' Boudreau said. ''The last time he played, he made a save to keep it close. And you just don't expect that. But he's a big man that's very mobile in the net. It was a great save he made tonight. We would have had to get another one and win 2-1 then.''

Robin Lehner made 28 saves for the Sabres, who were shut out for the fifth time. Andersen is 4-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average in four career starts against Buffalo, and his shutout was the Ducks' first-ever against Buffalo.

''We want to show that we can play with the best teams, but it's the small margins,'' Lehner said. ''I think we need to get tougher in front of both nets. We need to make it harder for the other goalies. In this league if you want to beat the goalies you need to get traffic in front.''

The Ducks had scored at least five goals in a franchise-record four consecutive games coming into this one but failed to get a shot on net during the final 10:38 of a scoreless first period.

''In the first period, I thought we got outworked as a team,'' Boudreau said. ''Their transition game was really fast and took us by surprise, I guess. But Freddie kept us in it. As the game went on, we started getting above their forwards, which didn't allow them many off-man rushes.''

Vatanen cashed in at 3:20 of the second during Anaheim's first power play, beating Lehner through multiple screens with a 45-foot wrist shot from the slot for his ninth goal. Mark Pysek was serving an interference penalty.

''When he's playing good, it adds to the offense and to the defense because he rushes the puck,'' Boudreau said. ''And at the same time, he stands right in there and competes against anybody.''

Anaheim has scored at least one power-play goal in six straight games, going 9 for 20 during that stretch. Buffalo's opponents were 2 for 31 with the man advantage over the Sabres' previous nine contests.

NOTES: Buffalo D Carlo Colaiacovo was back in the lineup in place of Mike Weber, who was traded to Washington on Tuesday after playing his first 341 NHL games with the Sabres. Colaiacovo was a healthy scratch in all but two of the team's previous 32 contests. ... The only other meeting between the teams this season resulted in a 3-0 Sabres victory on Dec. 17, with Chad Johnson making 44 saves for his only shutout of the season. ... The Ducks are 11-1-1 since C Shawn Horcoff began serving his 20-game suspension from the NHL for violating the terms of the league's performance-enhancing substances program. ... The Ducks are 21-0-3 when leading after two periods.

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