By Zack Hamada
After a shootout loss to the Sabers on Friday night, the Ducks were back at it versus their division rivals the San Jose Sharks. Anaheim had the opportunity to redeem themselves after the less than spectacular performance last night. However, redemption would not come easy. They would not only be forced to overcome the highly potent offense of the Pacific division leading Sharks, they would also have to battle the fatigue of an extended Friday night game. Doing so would bring them within 4 points of the Sharks, and that much closer of a 5th consecutive Pacific division title.
Playing in the second night of back to back games, the Ducks did themselves a huge favor early on when Patrick Eaves gave them a 1-0 lead. Thirty seconds into the game, Ryan Getzlaf got the puck on the boards. He then did what he does best, and made a beautiful pass to a wide-open Eaves in front of the net. Eaves put the puck behind San Jose goalie Martin Jones, giving the Ducks the lead, and giving Ryan Getzlaf his 800th career point.
A game that had some questionable officiating, had its most bizarre moment on a Ducks offensive zone possession. Corey Perry was in front of the net when Sharks D-man Dylan DeMelo lifted his stick a little too high. Perry was clearly struck in the face, and the referee who was 5 yards away clearly lifted his arm indicating a penalty. It would appear after the Sharks touched the puck, and the whistle blew that Anaheim was going to get an early power play opportunity. However, for some unexplained reason no penalty was called and the game would remain 5 on 5.
The Ducks were controlling play early in the 1st, despite the referee’s best efforts. After a couple of great scoring opportunities by Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg, the refs found their whistles. Silfverberg would head to the box on a soft hooking call on Brent Burns. Anaheim would win the special teams battle, and kill off the penalty. With 5 men on the ice, the Ducks went right back to work controlling the play in most of the first period.
Anaheim would finally get a call their way when Joel Ward dropped his gloves and grabbed Kesler. Each would go off for roughing, but Ward would get the extra 2 minutes for an unsportsmanlike conduct. The Ducks controlled the puck on the power play and had some good opportunities to extend the lead, but couldn’t get the puck in behind Jones. As the penalty expired, Michael Haley who was serving the extra penalty, got a hold of the puck all alone on Bernier. Haley, not known for his offensive prowess, shot the puck low glove side on Bernier, and the Anaheim netminder gloved it off making it look easy.
With a couple minutes left in the period, Anaheim would again have to skate a man down. Brandon Montour caught Joonas Donskoi up high with a stick, on a play that looked eerily like the play Perry was involved in early in the period. On this occasion, the referee decided that this was in fact a high sticking call, and Montour would sit for 2 minutes. On the penalty kill with 1:31 remaining, Fowler got his stick under Joe Thorton’s skates, and the Ducks would have to play the remainder of the period two men down. Logan Couture would take advantage of the 5 on 3 power play with 45 seconds remaining in the 1st. All alone in the slot he put a puck top shelf, that beat Bernier and tied the game at 1. The horn would sound and the Ducks would head to the locker room, tied 1-1 after dominating the play in the period.
The Ducks would kill off the remainder penalty to Fowler at the start of the period after a couple saves by Bernier and some shots off the post. Back at even strength, the Ducks fatigue began to show. San Jose controlled most of the play in the period, but thanks to some saves by Bernier the game remained tied at 1.
On another San Jose offensive zone push, Jakob Silfverberg blocked a pass at the point. He took off with the puck and easily outskated the flat-footed sharks D-man. All alone on Jones, the Swedish winger ripped a shot high glove side that Jones couldn’t get a hold of. His goal would put the Ducks up 2-1 with 6 minutes remaining in the 2nd. It was also his 20th of the season, tying his career-high that he set last season.
The Ducks would get an opportunity to extend the lead on the power play when Ward went off for tripping Fowler. After a couple more scoring opportunities on the man advantage, the slumping Ducks power play unit was again denied a goal. With less than a minute remaining in the period it looked like the Sharks might tie up the game with a last-minute goal once again. However, this time Bernier wasn’t having any of it, and the Ducks would head to the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
Down by a goal, the Sharks started their push at the drop of the puck, and controlled play early in the period. San Jose had a couple prime scoring chances, but thanks to some big saves by Bernier the Ducks maintained a 1 goal lead. Anaheim’s fatigue was becoming more evident as the period progressed. The Ducks were making quick shifts, icing the puck, and couldn’t get any offensive zone time. On another San Jose rush, Patrick Marleau gloved down a puck and skated it behind the Ducks defense. Marleau fumbled the puck in front of the net, and Bernier came up with the initial save. The puck sat in front of the net, and Bernier was way out of position. Kevin Bieksa got down in front of the goal, in a backup goalie style position and stopped another Shark’s bid. After some more shots by the Sharks, and a few more saves by Ducks defenders, the puck was finally cleared and the opportunity was denied.
Late in the period the Duck’s had their best offensive zone time in more than 20 minutes. Skating with the puck behind the San Jose net, Rickard Rakell had his stick sawed in half by a Sharks D-man. Rakell raised his hands in confusion at the no call, and Getzlaf’s vocalized displeasure was probably heard in Toronto. At this point, it appeared that there was no way the Ducks were going to get a man advantage for the remainder of the game.
With 2:30 remaining in the game San Jose pulled their goalie. Even on tired legs, the Ducks were able to break up the San Jose offensive zone plays and clear the zone. With seconds left, and the puck in the corner, Sami Vatanen ate the puck up along the boards to kill off the clock. Anaheim would hold on, and skate off with a 2-1 lead.
The chips were stacked against the Ducks tonight. Even with poor officiating and coming off a shootout loss accompanied with a late flight Friday night, they matched up against a tough division rival. If they could have maintained the play they had in the first period, I believe this game would not have been nearly as close. Probably even more impressive was the fact that they maintained composure throughout the game, considering the team’s history of imploding when the calls aren’t going their way. You know things are bad when John Ahlers and Brian Hayward are calling out the refs as much as they were tonight. Hayward pointed out an interesting statistic after the game, that the Ducks have had 450 more penalties called against them than they have had go their way. His displeasure was evident, and understandably so. If the Ducks keep catching their stride and can maintain the same mentality moving forward, they are going to be tough to contend with. Even though I am sure it’s not their goal, the win tonight brings them within 4 points of the Sharks, and if they continue to play this way a 5th consecutive title and more may be on its way.
3 Stars of the Game
Jonathan Bernier– 33 saves
Jakob Silfverberg- 1 Goal
Ryan Getzlaf- 1 Assist
The Ducks are back home on Wednesday at 7:00 pm, versus the 3rd place Edmonton Oilers.
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March 19th, 2017