Ducks Survive Comeback To Take Game 1 Over Dallas 4-3

Jeff Gross

The Anaheim Ducks' thunderous start was just barely good enough to hold off a sluggish finish and furious comeback attempt as they down the Dallas Stars by a final score of 4-3.

Final Score: Ducks 4, Stars 3

First Period Recap: With the building at fever pitch and an electric atmosphere, the Ducks came out swinging and made a huge effort to assert their dominance over their opponents early. It took just under two minutes for the Ducks to break open the scoring as Nick Bonino found a streaking Kyle Palmieri with a beauty of a saucer pass over the back of a diving defender, which Palmieri pulled back against the grain and potted beneath Kari Lehtonen five-hole. The bright-orange inside of Honda Center erupted as the Ducks took an early 1-0 lead.

Dallas didn't appear phased however, and spent a good chunk of time in the Anaheim end, testing rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen, making his first career playoff start, but Andersen was great early.

Dallas' best chance of the period came on the power play when Ray Whitney let a slap shot fly from the blue line which beat Andersen clean but rang off the outside of the goal post and fluttered to the corner.

The Ducks would double their lead amidst some concerted Dallas pressure when Ryan Getzlaf tapped in a rebound from a Matt Beleskey shot that hit Kari Lehtonen in the mask.

And the Ducks would not stop there, scoring a third in the dying seconds of the period when Patrick Maroon found Mathieu Perreault with a pass that the wide-open Perreault put under Lehtonen's arm to stretch the lead to 3-0. Mind you this was a power play goal as well.

That's how the period would end. Despite Dallas outshooting the Ducks 14-10 and leading in Fenwicks 18-13, the Ducks held the lead where it counted.

Second Period Recap: The second period was still more of the same.

The teams continued to trade chances and shots, but the Ducks did slowly start to close the Fenwick gap that had developed in the first period, and sure enough it paid off with their fourth goal of the night (and their second on the power play in the game) when a Francois Beauchemin blaster tipped off the outside of Matt Beleskey's leg and beat Lehtonen 4-0.

The Ducks continued to mount the pressure, but then fell apart a little bit.

The Stars drew a power play off of a very soft but nonetheless proper high-sticking call on Stephane Robidas, and then the officials outright gifted the Stars a 5-on-3 with the Ducks second too-man-men penalty on the night. I say gifted because that exact play happens every game all season long and teams are never called for it: the man leaving the ice was no more than 4 feet from the bench door when the next man jumped on, yet the officials called it. It was easily the most atrocious of a number of soft calls against Anaheim on the night.

On the ensuing 5-on-3 the Stars finally broke through when a puck deflected off of Francois Beauchemin right to a wide-open Jamie Benn, who potted the puck into an empty net to make it 4-1.

Less than two minutes later, immediately after the bench minor penalty expired, Colton Sceviour beat Frederik Andersen with what appeared to be a pretty harmless shot from the right circle. Nonetheless the Ducks lead had been cut in half in less than two minutes. Shades of an earlier loss to Dallas from this season all over again.

The period ended with the Ducks holding a 4-2 lead but the Stars widening the possession gap and stealing the momentum back. Additionally, they once again outshot the Ducks 13-12 in the frame.

Third Period Recap: The message from Bruce Boudreau was clearly to take fewer risks and solidify the defensive game. I don't think this was a bad idea, and it was clear that the Ducks listened, making fewer defensive mistakes and working pucks out of the zone. It worked great too, as the Ducks held the Stars to only one shot through the first six minutes of the period.

All of the momentum that the Stars had stolen away from the Ducks at the end of the second period appeared to be shifting back.

Until, completely out of the blue, Dallas scored again.

Bryan Allen drifted out into no-man's land, forcing Mathieu Perreault to have to cover a man at the side of the net, which gave Tyler Seguin just enough room to slip away from Stephane Robidas, where he got just enough of a touch on a shot-pass to deflect it past Andersen and make it 4-3.

And the momentum pendulum swings again.

This woke the Stars up immediately and they started pushing the issue, scrambling to try to tie the game. Freddy Andersen was forced to make a few good stops before the final horn, but ultimately some great efforts from Daniel Winnik and Ryan Getzlaf kept the Stars from tying the game and propelled Anaheim to victory in game one by a score of 4-3.

Ryan Getzlaf was hit in the mouth with a shot late, and he immediately left for the locker room and didn't return.

The Ducks finally managed to outshoot the Stars in a period as well, getting 13 to Dallas' eight, tying the game totals at 35 each.

**********

The Good: The Ducks came out confident, collected, and playing to their full potential. The depth was on fire, the top line looked great on both sides of the puck, and it demonstrated that with both teams matched up head to head, Anaheim is the far superior squad. Despite Dallas out-possessing Anaheim for much of the period, there was little question as to who was actually the better team.

The Bad: The Ducks were unable to contain the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, as both of them scored tonight. Thankfully Anaheim's depth scoring is far superior to that of the Stars because round one of the duo battle went to the visitors. Add that to us not yet knowing the severity of Getzlaf and Beleskey's late injuries (beyond news of stitches in Getzlaf's case) and this could be a huge issue for Anaheim. If these two continue to score at will, I don't like Anaheim's chances, particularly when the series swings back to Dallas.

The Ugly: This did very little to dissuade my fear (that I'm sure many of you also share) of Anaheim having full control over this series. In fact, Hayward said it best, this game really did nothing and meant nothing. Anaheim was flat out dominant to start the game, but gave Dallas a massive boost of confidence by allowing three goals right back. This did little to break their spirits. They'll be back in a much better capacity in game two.

Likewise, there is still the issue of the Ducks hesitating when given a chance to close their opponent out. They had a huge lead, but gave it up due to some shoddy defensive play (with, yes, some of the blame going to the horrendous officiating tonight). This inability cost the Ducks the series last year, and I hope it doesn't cost them again.

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3rd MVD: Stephane Robidas was exactly what we hoped he'd be in this series: pesty, physical, aggressive, and knew exactly how to get under the skin of his former teammates. They clearly didn't like playing against him either. I would love to see more games like this out of Stephane, and if he keeps it up he could easily be an impact player in this series.

2nd MVD: The Maroon-Perreault-Selanne line was great tonight. Maroon was a beast at getting possession and then protecting the puck down low, Selanne had speed all night and did a fantastic job getting open for chances, and Mathieu Perreault went 63% in the faceoff circle to go with his power play goal.

1st MVD: Not a bad performance by any means for Frederik Andersen in his first career playoff game. Andersen made a huge save late in the second period to deny Jamie Benn a third Stars goal of the frame, which would have been devastating for Anaheim. He was calm, cool, collected, and shook off the goals against like they were nothing. You have to wonder if he's even feeling the pressure because he certainly doesn't look like it and that's a fabulous sign.

Game 2: Friday, April 18th @ 7:00pm at Honda Center

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