By Michael Walters
The Anaheim Ducks hosted the New Jersey Devils for the final meeting of the regular season. The Ducks lost the first meeting 2-1 in New Jersey. Jonathan Bernier got the start for Anaheim against New Jersey’s Cory Schneider.
In the opening frame, the teams battled to a scoreless tie. The Devils had a little more jump at first, outshooting the Ducks 4-1 in the first seven minutes. Anaheim was awarded a power play at the 8:48 mark as Adam Henrique crossed-checked Rickard Rakell. The Ducks couldn’t convert with the extra man. Jonathan Bernier made a few quality saves including one against Travis Zajac on a tip-in attempt late in the period. Shots were even at eight apiece.
The Devils broke through this period with a pair of goals. Former Duck Devante Smith-Pelly scored after redirecting a point shot by Kyle Quincey and put it past Bernier. Just over three minutes later, Quincey scored his own goal to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. The goal was challenged by Anaheim for goalie interference because Kyle Palmieri had hit Bernier’s right arm as the puck when in the net. It was determined by the review that Palmieri’s contact occurred after the puck had already entered the net, so the goal stood. It looked like the Devils would go to the locker room up 2-0, but Anaheim’s Swedish players had other plans. First, Ryan Getzlaf would skate behind the New Jersey net and then find Rickard Rakell in front. Rakell took a shot, in which the puck squeezed between Schneider’s arm and leg pad, just barely crossing the goalie line for the score. Next, Korbinian Holzer would make a great play to prevent the Devils from clearing the zone. Holzer’s blocked the attempt, which sent the puck to Andrew Cogliano at the side of the Devils net. The defense collapsed on Cogliano, who found a streaking Jakob Silfverberg for the score just 16 seconds after the first goal. The game was all tied up at two.
In the beginning of the period, Josh Manson took a penalty, but Anaheim was able to kill it off. The teams again fought hard and it appeared the game might be headed to overtime. However, with less than four minutes to go, Silfverberg found Ryan Kesler for the eventual game-winning goal. Silfverberg skated behind the New Jersey net and threaded a pass to Kesler in the slot. Kesler shot the puck twice and was stopped on both attempts, but he stayed with the play and knocked the puck in on the third attempt. Shortly after the score, Manson was called for another penalty, but the Ducks were able to keep the lead. The Devils pulled the goalie in the final moments, but Anaheim held on for the 3-2 victory.
This was a tight checking, defensive battle, which the Devils are accustomed too. The Ducks started a little slow in the opening minutes of the game and had a few lapses in the second period but were still able to pull out the victory. Anaheim had previously lost all eight games in which they had given up the opening score.
This was a solid character win for Anaheim for a few reasons. First, the Ducks were able to win a game following a previous dominating performance over the Edmonton Oilers. Before this contest, when Anaheim has won big(by three goals or more) they have gone on to lose the next game three times in four contests. This is key for the Ducks to build momentum and continue to remain in first place in the Pacific Division. Second, the Ducks were able to rally past the Devils despite getting down by two goals. The Ducks hadn’t been able to rally after getting scored on first until last night.
The Ducks are 20-0-1 at home during the regular season when Kesler scores a goal.
This season Anaheim is 9-0-0 when scoring three goals or more.
This is the first comeback this season after giving up the first goal. The Ducks had previously been 0-5-3.
The Ducks are in sole possession of first place with this victory and an Edmonton lose last night.
The Ducks face cross-town rival Los Angeles on Sunday at 5pm.
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