By Jameson Bradley
The Penguins always seem to not only bring some of the best players in the NHL with them when they visit Anaheim, but they seem to bring crowds of fans decked in black and yellow to support them. It’s always a great matchup between Pittsburgh and Anaheim and this one did not disappoint. After shutting out the Penguins in Pittsburgh before the end of the year, the Anaheim Ducks looked to shut them down again tonight.
The game started extremely timid. You could tell that both teams were afraid to let too much ice get away from them. What seemed to break the mold was a slashing penalty against Phil Kessel about 6 minutes into the game. With the Ducks on the power play they didn’t hold anything back. They had some great grade-A chances and the only thing keeping the puck out of the net was rookie goaltender Tristan Jarry. The Penguins survived the penalty and unleashed a couple of great shots on the other end of the ice resulting with some standard John Gibson acrobat saves. The play also resulted in penalties on Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Montour. With the play at 4-on-4 the teams traded some chances but a penalty on Hampus Lindholm changed the numbers to 4-on-3 in Pittsburgh’s favor. The 4-on-3 lasted a little more than 20 seconds and the Ducks finished the penalty playing 5-on-4 and not giving up a goal. The teams continued to go back and forth but you could tell Pittsburgh was waiting to be let out of the gates with their continuous odd man rushes. With about 1:30 left in the period the Ducks managed some extremely sloppy puck handling in their zone and instead of getting it out of the zone during the changes, they kept it in. With the new players coming onto the ice the Penguins took advantage. Evgeni Malkin got the puck on his stick and almost as soon as it was on there he let a shot go and the Penguins went up 1-0. The score wouldn’t change through the end of the period.
The Ducks almost started the 2nd period on a power play with a penalty coming to Justin Schultz about 2 minutes in. They got some good looks, but only as far as that, as they seemed to be plagued by too much passing. They ended the power play with the score still 0-1 but about 4 minutes in Francois Beauchemin let a point shot go and Rickard Rakell redirected it in front of Jarry to go 5-hole and the Ducks tied the game. About 2 minutes later Jarry got caught favoring one side of the post too much and Adam Henrique got a great wrap around in making the game 2-1. A couple minutes after the tiebreaking goal Jared Boll took a slashing penalty sending the Penguins to another power play. They got some great looks but ultimately the Ducks would strike. Kris Letang took a chance and tried to pinch but Chris Wagner got past him and scored a beauty of a shorthanded goal making it 3-1 Anaheim. It’s always great to see a hardworking player like Wagner get a goal. The Ducks continued to fire pucks at Jarry getting him out of position several times but not pulling the trigger at the right moment. The Penguins got a great look with Carl Hagelin hitting not one post but both posts before the puck slipped out and the Ducks cleared. The Penguins continued to try and make something happen, but their passing seemed to be off by just a couple milliseconds. Another pinch play mistake and Ondrej Kase was off to the races. He delivered big with a fantastic backhand propelling the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-1 lead.
The Penguins came out extremely strong and had some great opportunities on John Gibson and the Ducks. The Ducks stayed strong and returned the favor with Adam Henrique and Ondrej Kase both hitting the crossbar on some great opportunities. About 9 minutes into the period Corey Perry took a sloppy interference penalty to put the Penguins on the power play. It only took them a couple plays to make the game 4-2 with a great feed from Crosby to Kessel. Kevin Bieska went on to take a penalty from messing with Malkin and Antoine Vermette had a great breakaway but couldn’t get the put over the line. Upon review of the play the puck seems to get to the line, but Jarry put his pads together and from there you couldn’t see the puck on the video feed. The Penguins would deliver on the power play and Jake Guentzel would make the game 4-3. Pittsburgh kept pushing and even got the puck right on the goal line before Josh Manson batted it away. The Ducks barely hung on and Hampus Lindholm potted the empty netter to make the final score 5-3 Anaheim
The Ducks played a great 40 minutes of hockey and horrible last 20 minutes. They seemed to turn into pumpkins and took things a little too serious at times and got caught on some pretty horrible penalties. Without those calls, Anaheim could have finished this game 4-1 or maybe 4-2. They need to keep their emotions in check if they look to get a wildcard spot for the playoffs in the next couple of months. The key to their win was their third line, Ritchie, Henrique, and Kase. It seemed like the two top lines canceled each other out and the third line really came in clutch when they had to.
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January 18th, 2018