By Thomas Harrington
After getting points in six straight games, the Ducks came up empty and were shutout for the eighth time this season against Toronto. The Blues came into this game having lost their previous two games in overtime. Both teams were looking to right the ship, and the Ducks pulled off the win in the shootout. Two things are very clear from this game. First, these two teams do not like each other as there was a lot of nastiness both ways. Second, the referees really do not like Corey Perry. He was cross checked multiple times, hit in the head, slammed face first into the boards, and there wasn’t a penalty called on any of those plays. In net, it was a contest of young netminders as John Gibson battled Jake Allen. However, Allen did not finish the game as Brian Elliott came in about halfway through the game. After being a healthy scratch for the last few games, Jiri Sekac returned to Anaheim’s lineup. In a surprising twist, the Ducks had more powerplays than the opposition for the first time in nearly 30 games.
Similar to the game against Toronto, the Ducks came out flying in the first, only this time, they were the ones with the one goal lead at the end of the period. Ryan Kesler took the puck, skated around the Blues’ defense, eventually found himself alone in the slot, and fired the puck through Allen’s legs. Jakob Silfverberg and Carl Hagelin picked up the assists on the play. Sami Vatanen set a bit of a pick on the play, helping Kesler to find the open ice for the chance. The Blues had a strong response shift after the Ducks’ opening goal, but Gibson kept them off the scoresheet. Hagelin had a couple of good chances during the period, but was stopped each time. Shea Theodore had another strong period in his rookie season and actually led the team with three shots on goal. Allen appeared rattled a few times and turned the puck over more than once. The Blues’ most dangerous forward is Vladimir Tarasenko, and the Ducks limited him to two shots on goal in the opening frame. Both teams had one powerplay in the opening period. Josh Manson was called for holding, while Kevin Shattenkirk was called for cross checking. The Ducks’ penalty kill came up large again, as the Blues were only limited to 10 seconds of control in the offensive zone during the two minute powerplay and failed to register a shot on goal. The Ducks’ shorthanded unit absolutely smothered the Blues’ forwards and did a great job of clearing the puck several times. The Ducks went on the powerplay late in the period and did not score on it. However, the Ducks had just over 30 seconds of powerplay time left when the period came to a close. The Blues also lost two players in that period, as a puck hit Paul Stastny up high and he didn’t return. Also, Ryan Getzlaf laid a hard hit on Jay Bouwmeester and he was out for the rest of the game too.
The second period woes for the Ducks continued in this game. That period also got nasty, as gloves were dropped and penalties were handed out, although from a Ducks perspective, not enough for St. Louis. The Ducks opened the second period with 32 seconds of time on the man advantage, but they failed to do anything with it. After that, the Blues just took over the period. Ryan Reaves scored from a bad angle, as Gibson gave up a bad goal. Later, the Ducks were trapped on the ice and Troy Brouwer gave them their first lead of the night. In a strange play, after the Blues’ second goal, Allen left the game. Earlier in the period, Perry had been pushed into him. Perry briefly left the game, but Allen seemed fine. However, he played the puck a little later and seemed to tweak his leg somehow. Brian Elliott came in at that point. Late in the period, the Ducks were trapped again and Robby Fabbri scored a pretty goal on the breakaway that Gibson nearly made the save on. Thankfully, the Ducks responded 31 seconds later when Perry tied the game off some nice passing from Getzlaf and Manson. The period also had some big hits, especially when Kesler just laid out Jori Lehtera. Tarasenko responded and the two got into a fight. I have no issue with Tarasenko standing up for his teammate and that was a fun fight to watch. However, as that fight was starting, Vatanen took a very dangerous cross check from Jori Lehtera right next to the boards. It should have been a penalty and the Ducks should have had a four on three advantage, instead of four on four hockey, since these incidents started when the Blues were on the powerplay. Overall, the Ducks were shorthanded three times that period and their penalty kill came up large again. Getzlaf almost tied the game late in the period but Colton Parayko made a great play to block what would have been a sure goal. The Ducks were outshot 17 to five in the middle frame.
After a terrible second period, the Ducks flipped the script in the third and held a 19 to 2 shot advantage in the final frame. While it wasn’t enough to get the win, it did get the game to overtime. In a surprising twist, the Ducks had three straight powerplays, and could have had more. They were able to score on one as Kesler made a great shot off a nifty pass from Silfverberg. Besides the time spent on the powerplay, the Ducks were all over the the Blues during even strength action. Elliott made his best save of the night as Perry almost scored on a backhand chance right in front of the net. Perry had a game high eight shots on goal, Rickard Rakell was just behind with seven. With only 11 seconds left, the Ducks had Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, Vatanen, and Kevin Bieksa as they tried to get the win in regulation. Perry did manage to get a shot off before time expired, but it wasn’t enough.
Overtime was probably the most even period of hockey in the game as both teams controlled the play for long stretches. Neither team was able to score, but both teams had some great chances. Kesler was pushing for the hat trick, but shot a rolling puck just over the net on a partial breakaway. Tarasenko had his best chance of the night as he went one on one with Perry, causing Gibson to make a great save off of Tarasenko’s wicked wrister. Showing how much the Ducks trust him, Theodore was given a decent amount of ice time in overtime and didn’t look out of place.
With 65 minutes in the books, the game went to a shootout. First up was Silfverberg, the Ducks’ ace in the hole, and he didn’t disappoint. He had some nifty stickhandling and then beat Elliott with a great shot. Perry was stopped and Kesler hit the post. Finally, with both sides scoring once, Getzlaf stepped up and made a great move and shot a backhander into a partially open net. Gibson made the save on the Blues’ final shooter, giving the Ducks the victory.
Perry’s second period goal. After another terrible second period that saw the Ducks lose the lead and fall behind by two, the fast response by the Ducks’ top line turned things in their favor. The Ducks carried the momentum from that goal through the rest of the game.
Kesler vs Tarasenko – All season long Kesler has been tasked with shutting down the best players night in and night out. All season long Kesler has done a great job of this, but tonight was his best performance of the year. It’s fair to say that Tarasenko is quite possibly the second or third best scorer in the NHL today. He’s in a three way tie for first in goals scored in the NHL with 24. As long as he stays healthy, he has a real shot at hitting the 50 goal mark this season. However, the only real scoring chance Tarasenko had tonight was when he was going against Perry in overtime. Other than that, Kesler was all over him, keeping him off the scoresheet. The two even got into a fight, which Kesler won. Tarasenko also picked up an extra two minutes for roughing in the altercation, meaning that besides keeping him from scoring, Kesler kept Tarasenko off the ice for seven minutes in this game. Besides stopping the dangerous Russian sniper, Kesler also managed to score twice and made Tarasenko play a lot of defense throughout the game.
Key stat of the game
63% (17 for 27) Silfverberg’s career shootout percentage. His 63% is tops all time among players who have taken at least 20 shootout attempts. He’s three for four this season in the shootout. When the game goes to the shootout, you can bet that Silfverberg will be one of the Ducks’ shooters and it’s a safe bet for him to score when he gets his turn.
Ducks’ 3 stars
- Kesler – He led the way with two goals and won 53% of his faceoffs. He was tasked with shutting down one of the elite goal scorers in the NHL, and handily won the matchup. He nearly had a hat trick to end the game in overtime.
- Perry – His goal in the second helped turn things around for the Ducks in this game. Plus, he took a beating in this game and kept coming back for more. He just kept going to the front of the net, it didn’t matter what happened to him. Perry was determined to see the Ducks win this game and was a huge reason why they did.
- Gibson – Even though he didn’t see a ton of rubber in the final period and let in a bad goal during the second, Gibson had another strong outing. He stopped a number of high quality chances in the middle frame and gave the Ducks a chance to stage their comeback victory.
The Ducks are now back in a playoff spot. Their next game is Sunday when Detroit comes to Anaheim.
Follow us on Twitter @DucksNPucks !
Like us on Facebook at DucksNPucks !
Follow us on Instagram at DucksNPucks !