By Zack Hamada
The Anaheim Ducks began a two-game road trip tonight in Minnesota. The Ducks had been 8-1-1 since New Years. Anaheim’s lone regulation loss in the new year, came at the hands of the Wild two Sundays ago when ex-Ducks head coach and current Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau walked out of his former place of employment with a 2-1 win. Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and crew headed north, to the Xcel Energy Center looking for some redemption against their old coach, and looking to extend their current win streak to 3.
John Gibson and Devan Dubnyk, two of the league’s elite goaltenders, would be the starters for each team tonight in St. Paul. Two and a half minutes into the game Gibson would be the first of the two to give up a goal. Corey Perry missed a pass in the offensive zone, Zach Parise quickly got to the puck and passed it up ice to Jason Pominville. Pominville skated it into the offensive zone and dropped it to Erik Haula, who blasted a slap shot from above the circle. The shot found its way past Gibson on the glove side and into the net, putting the Wild up to an early 1-0 lead. Minutes later Kurtis Gabriel took offense to some of the big hits youngster Nick Ritchie was laying on his teammates. Gabriel grabbed Ritchie from behind, some quick words were exchanged, and both dropped the gloves. Ritchie landed some early fast and heavy rights to Gabriel’s money maker. Gabriel recovered after blocking some blows with his chin, and then the two went tit for tat until the linesmen broke it up in front of Minnesota’s bench. Each would get the standard 5, but instead of heading to the box both headed for the lockers for some maintenance.
Twelve seconds after the next puck drop an energized ducks fourth line would bring the game to a tie. Joseph Cramarossa got a pass to the point where Cam Fowler put a hard shot on net. Dubnyk blocked the initial bid, but the recent call-up Stefan Noesen was waiting by the net for the rebound. The puck bounced to the left of the net, and right to Noesen who put it behind the Minnesota netminder tying the game at 1. Moments later Kesler had a prime scoring opportunity on a breakaway but was denied by Dubnyk. On the play, Andrew Cogliano took a hard hit after making a pass and was very slow getting up. He would go to the locker room, and would not return for the period.
After the Ducks’ goal, the Wild turn it up a notch. Zach Parise had an opportunity alone in front of the net, but Gibson came up big keeping the game tied. The 1st odd man advantage of the game would go in favor of the Wild when Hampus Lindholm tripped Mikael Granlund. On the penalty kill Anaheims forwards were applying the pressure on the Wild power players, not allowing them to get properly set up. The pressure finally got to the Wild when Cam Fowler got a hold of the puck in the defensive zone and took off. He flew past the flat-footed Minnesota defensemen, and towards Dubnyk. Fowler made a quick move and put the puck between Dubnyk’s legs. His 5-hole goal was his 10th of the year and gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead.
Gibson would head to the locker room early with an apparent injury after blocking a shot to the chest with 5:38 remaining. He was listed with an upper-body injury and would not return. Backup goalie Johnathan Bernier came in to finish the period for the injured Gibson. Outshooting the Wild 9-8, the Ducks ended the 1st with a 2-1 lead.
Some good news came to the banged-up Ducks when Cogliano returned to the game and would be out on the ice to start the second. Less than a minute in, Cogliano and linemate Ryan Kesler got some offense going and took the puck into Minnesota’s zone. The pressure forced Marco Scandella to hold Ryan Kesler and get a two-minute minor for it. On the power play, Getzlaf skated the puck behind the net and shot it towards the goal crease. Corey Perry found the puck in the traffic and put it between Dubnyk’s legs. His 9th goal of the season gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead.
Moments later, Sami Vatanen fumbled a puck at his defensive blue line. Jason Zucker was on the puck and on his way towards a breakaway. All alone, he put the puck high on Bernier’s blocker side and into the net. The goal shortened the Ducks lead, making the game 3-2. A reenergized Minnesota bench was forechecking hard and was getting to Anaheim’s defense. Pressure from the forecheck almost allowed Minnesota to tie the game in the 3rd. Charlie Cole would slow down that pressure when he took a high sticking penalty with 10 minutes remaining. On the power play, Corey Perry almost had his second of the game when he took it to the front of the net. However, Dubnyk denied him and the Ducks failed to capitalize on the opportunity. As the period progressed the game got more physical, and the game went back and forth with offensive opportunities. Mikael Granlund had one of the better opportunities when he got the puck all alone to the left of the net. He thought the puck was in, but it bounced off the crossbar and away from the net. The period finished with the Ducks leading 3-2 and holding a 20-16 shot advantage.
As the period progressed the game got more physical, and the game went back and forth with offensive opportunities. Mikael Granlund had one of the better opportunities when he got the puck all alone to the left of the net. He thought the puck was in, but it bounced off the crossbar and away from the net. The period finished with the Ducks leading 3-2 and holding a 20-16 shot advantage.
When the teams came out for the third, Minnesota controlled the play for the first few minutes. The post would make a save for Bernier again when Marco Scandella took a shot from the circle. With a lot of traffic in front of the net Bernier could not see the shot, and the sound of the puck going off the cross bar was the sweetest sounds the Ducks and their fans heard all period. The game resumed much like it did at the end of the second, very physical and back and forth.
On one of their opportunities Minnesota had Anaheim hemmed in. Ryan Suter had the puck at the point and made a short pass towards the high slot. Erik Haula redirected the puck towards the net and behind Bernier. His second of the game tied the game at 3.
Anaheim had the puck in Minnesota’s zone for their own offensive zone opportunity when they turned it over. On an odd-man break, Ryan Suter got the puck in the corner behind the goal line. He threw the puck towards the net, and it bounced off Bernier and into the goal. Suter’s goal put the Wild up 4-3 with a little under 6 minutes remaining. Trying to mount an offensive to make a comeback, Anaheim would again get caught deep a minute later. Granlund and Zucker were on a 2-on-1 break, and Granlund got the puck to his teammate when Cam Fowler made a move to play the puck at the blue line. On the breakaway for the second time, Zucker put the puck past Bernier and gave the Wild a late 5-3 lead.
From that point on the Wild went into shut down mode. Every puck they got to was quickly lifted out of their zone. Their play didn’t allow Anaheim to get set up and kept Bernier off the bench. Minnesota played their defensive game until the clock expired, and finalize their comeback win. The Ducks would walk off the ice with a 29-25 shot advantage, but lost by 2 goals. The loss was the second to the Wild in as many weeks, and their second in 2017.
Both teams played a very physical and fast game, and both teams had their fair share of opportunities. However, Minnesota’s cross ice passes and fast breakouts got the better of Anaheim tonight. All hope did not look to be lost for the Ducks. The game was an early uphill battle as they were missing one of their top scoring wingers, and losing their goalie in the 1st. Getzlaf, Perry, and Rakell have begun to look more dangerous as a line in the past couple of games. Ritchie and Kase have proven to be a strong 3rd line offensive threat. The all-star center Ryan Kesler and his linemates have been big contributors all season long, and when healthy it’s going to be hard to matchup with both top lines. Granted, the Ducks could have played better tonight as they had some defensive miscues and some poor passing. However, with the seemingly positive steps the offense has been making over the past few games and the depth on defense, it’s hard to disagree that if healthy this team is going to be hard to contend with come April.
Gibson left the game with an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated at practice today.
Corey Perry scored his first non-empty net goal since December 13.
Ducks head to Winnipeg to take on Patrik Laine and the Jets on Tuesday at 5 pm.
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January 22, 2017