Final Score: Ducks 6, Sharks 3
Full Game Recap:
You want details? Fine.
First Period Recap: The first two minutes of the game looked like the Anaheim Ducks weren't going to make the same mistake as they did up north in San Jose and come out flat-footed. Off the opening faceoff the Ducks quickly rushed up the ice and tried to make their presence known. However, the San Jose Sharks were ready for this, quelled the rush, and almost immediately turned the period in their favor almost entirely.
The first gem of a chance early in the game came when Patrick Marleau found himself all alone at the side of the net with a rebound on his stick. Marleau slipped the pass through the pads of Jonas Hiller, but was just a little too slow in doing so as it gave young Sami Vatanen just enough time to get behind his netminder and stop the puck from going over the goal line just minutes into the game.
Speaking of Jonas Hiller, the Ducks netminder was absolutely sensational all night long. I'm pretty sure if you look up "Hiller" in the Dictionary it says "(n.) 1. Number one killer of Sharks." And oh my how many times did he bail his team out in the first period? Correct answer: a lot.
Corey Perry had easily the Ducks best chance in the early going when he found himself all alone in the slot with time to let a wrist shot go. Antti Niemi played it perfectly, coming out to challenge and got his glove on the shot in what should be a save-of-the-year candidate. But that would be it for the Ducks for the most part.
By the end of the frame the Sharks had registered 17 shots on goal (including a stretch of nine straight in the middle of the frame) and a whopping 24 attempts (Fenwick). The Ducks were so badly out-possessed for most of the period that it was nothing short of a miracle of the magic at Honda Center this year that the Ducks didn't find themselves down three or four goals at the first intermission.
Instead of being down, however, the Ducks found themselves up, contrary to nearly any and all logic of the game.
Late in the frame, Matt Beleskey whipped a wrist shot towards the net which found the outstretched stick of Kyle Palmieri just slightly above his waist level. The slightest touch directed the puck past Antti Niemi for the first goal of the game to give the Ducks the much-undeserved 1-0 lead.
The period would not end just on that however. In the dying seconds with the Ducks on the penalty kill, Patrick Marleau once again got to a third rebound which he jammed past a sprawled out Jonas Hiller. Despite the official on the ice signaling goal, the replay review showed that the puck was clearly put over the line well after the horn to end the period (by well over a second, really). Obvious no-goal call, but it was just one of many strokes of luck for the Ducks who headed to the locker room up 1-0 despite only throwing eight shots of their own on Niemi.
Second Period Recap: Well the Sharks got denied a goal by the horn in the first period, so they made sure it had no chance of denying them again.
Just 35 seconds into the period, Dan Boyle ripped a bomb from the blue line that sailed past Jonas Hiller to tie the game at one early. And to this point in the game, it was hardly undeserved as the Sharks lead the Fenwick numbers by a total of 25-9.
Then the wheels fell off the San Jose freight train.
The Ducks finally realized they were supposed to be playing hockey, and they quickly started establishing dominance of their own, earning nine of the next ten shots on goal. The Fenwick disparity closed rapidly. It tied completely when the Ducks potted their second goal of the game.
After an incredible shift that saw the Sharks penned inside their own blue line for what felt like the better part of three millennia (by the way, Happy New Year everyone!), Francois Beauchemin snuck down from the point and found himself all alone at the side of the San Jose net. With the five Sharks on the ice gasping desperately for air, Beauchemin popped the puck between the stacked pads of Niemi and into the back of the net. It was his first goal of the season, and Ryan Getzlaf's primary assist was his first point in three games.
It took only 1:35 for the Sharks to answer right back. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Logan Couture worked his way into space, and he made the Ducks pay for failing to both cover him adequately or cut off the pass to him when he roofed a shot over Jonas Hiller for his second goal in two games, and third in a row against the Ducks. Mind you he had been without a goal since late November coming into this home-and-home. Safe to say I think we have a new Duck slayer up north.
Not long after, the Sharks had an amazing chance to make the game 3-3 when the Honda Center gremlins spiked a puck off a stanchion in the Zamboni corner, away from Jonas Hiller who had gone back to play the puck and out in front of a gaping net. Joe Thornton was the first one to it, but he took a second to set up the shot, and this gave Ben Lovejoy a split second in which do dive forward and get just enough of a stick on the puck to deflect Thornton's shot wide of the empty cage. Someone owes Lovejoy dinner.
The Ducks didn't exactly like being tied (seeing what just happened) so they changed that once again. With James Sheppard sitting for high-sticking Sami Vatanen, the Ducks power play (which looked brilliant in possession all night long) went to work and generated chances. Ryan Getzlaf carried a puck to the high slot and let a low wrister go which generated a rebound to Nick Bonino. Despite Brad Stuart tackling him from behind, Bonino managed to work the puck into the net for his 11th goal of the year. The Power Play marker was Anaheim's first since December 9th, and broke a streak of 22 straight failed attempts from the Ducks extra-man unit (and let's hope opened the floodgates for a few more tallies with the extra man).
And that wouldn't be all for Anaheim in the period either. Despite leading 3-2, the Ducks continued to pour on the pressure and were rewarded again late in the frame on a brilliant effort from Matt Beleskey. After winning a battle, Beleskey sent the puck to Nick Bonino who carried the puck out to the front of the net. Bonino sent a little pass right into a mass of bodies in front which Beleskey got a stick to and backhanded the puck through the pads of Niemi to put the Ducks up by a pair.
You'll notice a trend on these goals: they came because the Ducks won battles, and for most of the second period, that's exactly what the Ducks did. And it showed dramatically as the Ducks closed the Fenwick count, and put a whopping 25 shots on goal. After two periods the Ducks led by two and now, miraculously, outshot the Sharks 33-25.
Third Period Recap: The wheels were still spinning on the ground somewhere for the Sharks when the third period got underway as it took less than two minutes for the Ducks to expand the lead again.
A weak pass at the blue line found its way to the stick of Corey Perry, who tapped a brilliant pass up to a streaking Ryan Getzlaf. With the only pressure coming from his side, Getzlaf carried the puck to the top of the right circle and launched a breathtaking wrist shot right into the top corner over Niemi.
Despite there being virtually no chance for Niemi to save that puck, Todd McLellan ended his goaltender's evening, pulling him in favor of Alex Stalock. The message was clear: the Sharks coach was pissed.
But the Ducks weren't done yet.
Matt Beleskey took a delay-of-game penalty that was more bad luck than anything else, as he batted a puck out of midair and over the glass.
Despite some strong pressure from San Jose, the Sharks defense got caught taking some big risks to try to pull one back, and the speedy ironman Andrew Cogliano made them pay.
Both Dan Boyle and Logan Couture fell down near the blue line, and a nifty pass from Cogliano sent Saku Koivu in on Alex Stalock all alone on a breakaway. Stalock made a brilliant save with his toe, but couldn't stop the rebound from finding Andrew Cogliano who buried it past him for his first shorthanded goal of the year, and the Ducks second shorty in their last three games. Unbelievably it was now 6-2 Ducks.
However, the Sharks dangerous power play was determined not to let that be the only story of that power play, and they responded quickly with a goal of their own.
Just seconds before Beleskey was set to be released, the Sharks got one back when Bracken Kearns tipped a long point shot past Jonas Hiller to make it 6-3. After scoring his first career NHL goal at the age of 32 years last time these two teams met, the career-AHLer now has two to his credit, both against Anaheim.
And now the Sharks poured it on.
The Fenwick number that the Ducks had done so well to close now suddenly widened again as the Sharks kept pushing to get another one back.
Several consecutive Anaheim shifts saw the Ducks settle for flipped pucks out of the zone or consecutive icing calls, leading to even more chances for the Sharks.
Late in the game Logan Couture made another huge bid for his second of the night, ringing a laser of a wrist shot off the right post behind Hiller.
However, the hill eventually appeared too big for the Sharks to climb, and the pressure leveled off as the game came to an end. The Ducks did get a few more minor chances as the clock wound down, but it wouldn't matter as the Ducks walked away from Honda Center and the 2013 calendar year with a big two points from a 6-3 win over their rival San Jose Sharks; a victory made all the sweeter by the regulation loss by the Los Angeles Kings, widening the Ducks' lead atop the Pacific Division.
Final shots totaled 38-36 in favor of Anaheim.
The Good: The Ducks responded brilliantly to a poor first period effort with possibly their best 20 minutes of hockey to date this season. The second period was absolutely wonderful. Barring that goal from Logan Couture, the defense was solid, and the possession was fantastic, wiping the ice with a team who dominated possession statistics for most of the other two periods and the entire previous game.
The Bad: The Sharks power play was good, but the Ducks penalty kill was also pretty bad. The Ducks allowed two goals on five attempts (albeit one of those attempts was only about 15 seconds long). So in reality it was about a 50% night for the shorthanded unit, which gave San Jose numerous dangerous chances every time they were called upon.
The Ugly: The Ducks need to stop with the crappy first periods. Tonight's in particular was abysmal. It's only a matter of time before a team of this quality is going to bury the Ducks with a lead of two or three goals at the end of one period and it's going to be a hill too tall for the Ducks to climb. This team has got to be better-prepared to start games.
Next Game: Friday, January 3rd at 7PM vs. the Edmonton Oilers