First Period Recap: Call me skeptical but I was deeply afraid coming into this one that the Ducks were going to come out slow and it would doom them.
The Islanders entered the night with nothing to lose, playing against a team 28 places ahead of them in the standings, and one who they had a lot of successes against in their last meeting. Add that to the Ducks playing last night in New Jersey, and their propensity for sluggish play against the lower teams in the league, and you had a disaster set up and waiting to happen.
Well it began when the Islanders hit the ice wearing their third jerseys, causing everyone in the building and watching on TV to simultaneously vomit and then burst into laughter. Well... everyone but the Buffalo Sabres because they feel you, bro.
Before the game started it was announced that Hampus Lindholm and Dustin Penner would both be sitting this one out. Neither are injured in any way, just the victims of the Ducks having too many healthy guys and wanting to get Tim Jackman and Mark Fistric some playing time.
This created some rather interesting line combos, many of which I really didn't like. Notably, for the second straight game the shutdown line of Daniel Winnik, Saku Koivu, and Andrew Cogliano was split apart.
The puck dropped and I was a little reassured by the Ducks getting a few chances of their own in the early going, however the Islanders looked to set exactly the same tone as they did last time these two teams met, and almost immediately they accomplished that.
The Isles came out hard, pressuring relentlessly, forechecking extremely tight, and throwing the body every chance they got. This pretty obviously rattled the Ducks early and as a result the Isles quickly became the dominant team in their offensive zone.
For much of the first period the Ducks found themselves penned into their own end, surrendering the majority of the shot attempts.
Full credit to the Islanders as well for bottling up the neutral zone and slot so much that the Ducks could barely get what few shot attempts they had through to the net.
For most of the first half of the period the Ducks really floundered to get over the New York blue line at all. Meanwhile in their own end the Isles seemed to be finding every seam and open lane to create a much higher-quality scoring chance that was far more threatening.
Just past halfway into the game, the Islanders predictably struck first. A long, low shot found its way to Fredrik Andersen, who kicked it away, but Tomas Vanek spun away from Ben Lovejoy and banged it back past him to give the Isles a 1-0 lead.
The Ducks did try to push back and earned six of the final seven shots of the period, however the Islanders strategy was clearly to clog up the middle of the ice and block everything, and that's exactly what they did. Shot after shot and pass after pass went for naught after the Isles got a stick or a body in the way.
The period ended with the Isles leading 1-0 on the scoreboard and 9-8 in shots. However the Ducks also had seven giveaways in the first period, a testament to how poorly the Ducks were taking care of the puck in their own zone.
Second Period Recap: The second period started much better for the Ducks, and for long stretches of the period, the Ducks dominated possession, peppering Evgeni Nabokov with shot after shot, and many of them got through, even though the Isles continued to block a boatload.
However, early in the frame Matt Martin got a good run at Sami Vatanen and decked him with a huge open-ice hit that was a touch on the late side. This drew the ire of almost everybody on the ice, including Mark Fistric, who dropped his gloves to fight but Martin didn't oblige. Fistric was lucky to escape without a penalty on the play. Not long after that though Tim Jackman started egging Martin on, and he finally obliged. The scrap wasn't too noteworthy as neither guy landed any fantastic punches, despite Jackman ending up in a headlock at one point.
Just over two minutes later the Islanders took the first penalty of the game, and the ensuing Anaheim power play looked an awful lot like the first 20 games of the season. After clicking at nearly 30 percent after the 16-game mark, the Ducks power play has gone stone cold. The better of the chances instead went to the team which was playing short a man. The Ducks didn't even manage a shot.
But they continued to push and Nabokov denied Corey Perry with one of the most awkward standing saves I've ever seen, barely keeping the puck out while shutting his five-hole.
They did finally manage to get on the board in the latter stages of the period, however. Ryan Getzlaf got a shot high in the slot that was blocked and somehow found its way to the side of the net, where he backhanded it back in front and it bounced underneath Nabokov to tie the game at 1-1. Arguably one of the uglier goals of Getzlaf's career but at that point it really felt like the Ducks would need an ugly one to finally break Nabby anyway.
The minutes following were a disaster for Anaheim. New York once again started dominating the time in the Anaheim zone and earned chances with more exploitation of seams, speed, and physicality. The Ducks just flat out didn't appear to want to play when the puck was in their own end.
John Tavares took a penalty late in the frame, giving the Ducks the chance to right the ship and set themselves up for a good third period. Then Matt Beleskey gave a gift of a turnover right to Thomas Vanek in the expiring seconds of the penalty. Vanek carried the puck down the right wing boards and ripped it past Andersen to put the Islanders immediately back in front 2-1.
Only 58 seconds later the Isles struck again. Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen found themselves in two-on-two with Ben Lovejoy and Cam Fowler. Nielsen walked around Fowler rather effortlessly and lifted a shot over Andersen's right arm. Suddenly the Ducks found themselves down 3-1.
Despite Anaheim outshooting the Isles 10-5 in the period, two lackluster defensive efforts in a row put the Ducks in a two-goal hole.
Third Period Recap: The Ducks needed a strong start to the period in order to establish themselves and that's exactly what they got.
Just over a minute into the period the big line (tonight's edition included Kyle Palmieri in place of Dustin Penner) established the cycle and worked a great chance to the front of the net. Palmieri battled for it and somehow squirted it out to a collapsing Getzlaf, who ripped it past a sprawling Nabokov who had no chance on the play. 3-2 Ducks on the captain's second of the evening.
The big line appeared to be fully awake as just minutes later they got another quality chance past Nabokov, however Ryan Getzlaf swept at it to seal his hat trick, only to whiff and then somehow pull it back out of the net. What could have been the tying goal was saved by our own player.
The Ducks appeared to be all-in on the offense, however and their defense struggled as a result. Fredrik Andersen bailed them out several times as Thomas Vanek had a great chance at a hat-trick in all alone, and had another one on a great two-on-one with captain John Tavares.
Midway through the period the Ducks would finally break through again to tie the game. A won faceoff was pushed to the right corner and then fed to the middle. Matthieu Perreault spun off his marking defender and found himself open for the chance which he smacked past Nabokov. 3-3.
Then with just over six minutes remaining, local boy Kyle Palmieri proved himself the hero for the second night straight, taking the puck off a faceoff, barging his way to the front of the net, and then wrapping it past the outstretched pad of Nabokov. Normally you expect plays like this to come from the power forwards in the group, but don't tell that to Palms, as he put his head down and barreled his way in to score what would prove to be his second game-winner in two nights.
Unbelievably the Ducks had their first lead of the night 4-3.
The Ducks refused to sit on that lead as well, spending a good amount of the final minutes of the game down in the Islanders end.
After essentially denying himself his own hat trick earlier in the period, Captain Baldy would finally seal his hat trick within the final minute of the game with a long shot into an empty net.
A dominant third period performance saw the Ducks outshoot the Isles 13-7 to bring the game total to 31-21.
The Ducks win their eighth straight game and complete the sweep over the Islanders by a 5-3 final score.
The Good: The third period effort was amazing from the forwards. The team didn't give up after surrendering two late goals in the second, and battled back hard to win the third period triumphantly. Kyle Palmieri also looked spectacular on the top line.
The Bad: The chemistry was clearly not there for a lot of the night tonight. Passes missed sticks, shots went lazily into Islanders bodies, and the effort in the defensive zone was extremely poor all night long. The Ducks appeared to have no interest in playing defense.
The Ugly: The Isles third jerseys. I seriously can't think of anything more deserving of the title of "Ugly."
Next Game: Monday, December 23rd @ 4PM vs. Washington Capitals