By Jameson Bradley
With the trade deadline looming on the horizon, the Anaheim Ducks took a quick pit stop in Orange County after a long road trip before heading out to Las Vegas for the game on Monday night. Hopefully the quick stop back home helped the players to focus a little more and get some wins together. Monday marked the final meeting between the new division rivals, with Vegas taking each of the three previous games. Vegas went into the match-up being the top team in the NHL, while the Ducks teetered just on the outside of a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. To say Monday’s match-up was important was a solid understatement.
The game started rocky as most games do. The teams seemed to be trying to find a balance, but the Ducks got some solid chances very early on. After those chances, Vegas started to play the game they play so well, grind the opposing team down and find those gritty goals. It seemed like it was going to work until about the 7 minutes mark when Andrew Cogliano looped around to the blue line and fired a shot that looked like it was going to get blocked in front. Somehow Jakob Silfverberg got a tip in front of Marc-Andre Fleury who was going to the side and the puck went in to give the Anaheim Ducks a 1-0 lead. They would take that lead to the locker room, with the shots 8-4 in favor of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The 2nd period was basically all Golden Knights. The Ducks seemed to take a backseat to defend while the Knights pressed extremely hard. Nothing would come of the pressure though and the Ducks still seemed to get some great looks. Ryan Getzlaf got a choppy puck in the middle of the ice and zipped it past Fleury on the short side, but the play was called back because of an offside video review. The period would end 1-0 with Anaheim in the lead, and they would gain some ground on the shot ticker with Vegas leading 13-12.
Ryan Miller took over in the 3rd period for John Gibson. Gibson seemed to exit the 2nd slowly, either from a clip he suffered near the end of the period from a player scuffle or when Reilly Smith clipped his skate when trying to rim a puck around the boards. The Golden Knights took their offense up a notch in the 3rd trying to tie the game. The Ducks seemed to close-up like they do when they have the lead and just seemed to be dumping pucks in the opposing zone. During one of the plays Ryan Kesler and Jon Marchessault got penalties creating a 4-on-4. With more ice to maneuver the Ducks seemed to feel more comfortable creating offense. Getzlaf got the puck and launched it toward the net. It went off Josh Manson’s skate and gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead. The Golden Knights went on a power play a couple minutes later after a slashing call on Cogliano. The Ducks did well to fight it off, but you couldn’t shake the feeling that the Knights were going to somehow make this a game. As the minutes dwindled down they barred down on Anaheim’s defense. Miller made some incredible saves to preserve the shutout and the Ducks pulled off the win. The game finished with the Knights outshooting the Ducks 33-20
The Ducks played a solid 45 minutes of hockey. With some defensive play during the second, and a major close-up during the third they still pulled off the win. If they look to move up in the standings and secure a playoff spot they are going to need to learn that you need to keep playing the game, even when you have the lead. It was great to see the Getzlaf line get on the scoresheet and divide the scoring up a bit since recently it has been all Henrique’s line. Ryan Kesler also seemed to be playing better which was good to see. Ryan Miller preserved the shutout with John Gibson (the second time it’s happened in team history) which they both deserved. Both goalies had some incredible saves, and the team really is lucky to have them both. As for Gibson’s injury he never returned the game so we will have to wait and see. Fortunately Miller is a goalie we can depend on, especially when every game down the stretch is going to be do-or-die. The Anaheim Ducks take the ice next at home vs. the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.
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February 20th, 2017