Ducks Grab Early Lead, Hold on for Dear Life to Even Series at Two

Harry How

I'm tempted not to even write a recap and just let you read Game 2 and reverse everything. but that's not quite accurate so here we go....

Final Score: Ducks 2, Kings 0

John Gibson led the Ducks onto the ice for warmups and everybody went absolutely nuts, for good reason.  This is a guy playing his fourth ever NHL game and his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.  I'll give Bruce Boudreau credit for making the ballsy decision, and again giving himself Jonas Hiller to fall back on, and for the concept that the team will play tighter defense in front of Gibson, but that's all in hindsight of how the night went.  At the time it seemed like flat out insanity.

First Period Recap: The Ducks started somewhat slowly.  Only four minutes into the game, Gibson faced his first real test with Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik coming in on a 2-on-1.  Williams got the pass across and Gaborik shot back across the grain, high glove side, but Gibson was all over it.  Unfortunately he only blocked it with the glove hand rather than catching it and later on the shift Corey Perry was sent off for tripping Drew Doughty.

The Kings didn't get any shots on the power play and really the best opportunity was a huge rebound off of Jonathan Quick that newly inserted Daniel Winnik got to, but completely fanned on.  After the penalty kill the Ducks got into the game with some good forechecking and cycling from the top line (including Devante Smith-Pelly) but were once again on the kill when Bryan Allen got his stick up to defend himself from an on rushing Dustin Brown.

Once again the Ducks were good on the PK, only allowing one shot this time.  I actually thought this kill was better than the first, in that it took nearly a minute and a half for the Kings to even get set up in the offensive zone.

The Ducks registered the all important first goal a few minutes later.  Ryan Getzlaf's shot went wide.  DSP went to the front of the net and Perry made a slick no look backhand pass off the end boards from behind the goal to him for  a shot over Quick's glove hand .  Quick's stick was tied up in the feet of Perry as he went behind the net to pick up the rebound which didn't allow him to really be in position and bang, bang the Ducks were in the lead.

For the next couple of minutes the pace slowed down to a dreadful crawl thanks to icings, and offsides and all number of whistles.  The most important though, was an interference call on Tanner Pearson as he cut Teemu Selanne off in trying to recover a loose puck right after a faceoff.

Just past the minute mark of the penalty the Ducks struck again.  Sami Vatanen's shot from the point left a rebound, which Corey Perry poked to Getzlaf coming in the back door.  Getzy missed the open net as Quick was being his normal aggressive self, but he gathered the rebound behind the net and banked a shot off of Quick's face and in for the two goal lead late in the first.  And that's how the period would end, just about perfect for the desperate Duckies.

Second Period Recap: The less said about this period the better.  Even more of a shock than Gibson starting the game for the Ducks was Daryl Sutter's decision to pull Quick in favor of Martin Jones for the second.  It was more of a motivation tactic for the rest of the team than a statement on Quick's play, even though he was facing into his own net while giving up a goal for the second time in the series.

You'd have to say the motivation worked for the Kings as they came out absolutely on fire.  In the first minute of the period Cam Fowler had to make a diving save across the crease to stop a wrap around from Anze Kopitar.  The puck never technically went on goal, but Gibson wasn't there in time if it had.  And that was the kind of period it was going to be.  All defense all the time.

Still early in the period Ryan Getzlaf made the play of the game (in my opinion).  Gaborik's shot was blocked by Bryan Allen, but it trickled into the slot for Williams.  Gibson did the two pad stack to make the save, but it actually never got through to him, hitting Jarett Stoll instead, and Doughty swooped in from the point for a shot on a wide open goal...... BUT in came Getzlaf to block the shot in the crease, Alec Martinez style.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Getzy doesn't make that block, the Kings score and go on to win the game.  They were dominating so much, early in the second period that they would have easily run away with the game if they had gotten on the board at that point.  There is no way that the Ducks could have turned on the offensive switch and gotten back into the game, the way that the Kings were playing at that point.  Seriously, if that play was made in a Stanley Cup Final game just hand over the Conn Smythe.

The rest of the period was more Kings offensive dominance.  With about four minutes left, Gibson made a great kick save on Pearson after a tic-tac-toe passing play between him, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards (reunited, and it feels so good).

With just under three and a half minutes remaining, Kopitar made a nice move on the boards to fool Patrick Maroon that forced Getzlaf to hook him or allow him a free path to the net. Getzy made the right decision and the Ducks killed another Kings power play very well, allowing only one shot.

After the kill, the Ducks had a shift or two of cycling in the LA zone, but no shots.  In fact the period ended with the Kings out shooting the Ducks 12 to ZERO!!!!!!  According to the broadcast, that marked the first time in Ducks history they had been held without a shot on goal in a playoff period.

Third Period Recap: On the first shift of the third period the Ducks had just about as much offensive zone time as the entire second period, and that was from the checking line of Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Jacob Silfverberg, still no shots though.  As that line came off the top line came on and Perry was nailed to the boards by a hip check from Doughty.  He went down like he was shot, but it was really just a hip to the thigh that probably stung quite a bit.  As bad as it looked in live motion, he didn't miss a shift.

Throughout the period the Ducks did a very good job of pressuring the Kings at the points, breaking up breakout passes and slowing them down through the neutral zone.  If it wasn't for the dismal second period, this would have been a classic road period, protecting a two goal lead.

Anaheim got their first shot on Jones roughly three minutes into the third period (baby steps) and went on a power play shortly thereafter when Kopitar's errant stick cut Cogs.  The Ducks couldn't really get set up in the first two minutes of the double minor and got a couple of shots in the second part, but nothing really dangerous.  On the bright side it was four more minutes off the clock.

A few minutes after that power play, Cogs went off for tripping Dustin Brown behind the Ducks' net.  There was contact, was it enough to bring him down?  That all depends on whether you're a Ducks fan or a Kings fan, but it was a pretty easy call for the ref to make.

Getzlaf and Koivu each broke sticks during the kill.  Getzy stayed with the play, almost clearing the zone with a kick at one point and they survived the onslaught when the puck deflected out of play.  Koivu, on the other hand, chose to grab a new stick from the bench and continued assisting with the kill as time expired on the penalty.

Los Angeles followed up the power play with possibly their best chance to score in the period.  Pearson made a pass from behind the net to Tyler Toffoli in the slot and Gibson made a great save.  The rebound bounced up in the air and Toffoli proved that he is not as good at baseball as Gaborik or Richards with a swing and a miss.  After that Allen iced the puck and Boudreau was forced to use his timeout.

Sutter pulled Jones for the extra attacker with roughly 2:40 remaining and the Ducks had four chances to seal the game with an empty netter.  Silfverberg out raced an icing call and had a little cycle with Cogliano, but neither could get it to the net.  Silf had two other chances as well, one from the neutral zone and one from just inside the blueline but both missed high.  And Ryan Getzlaf tried to dangle the puck right into the empty net in the dying seconds of the game but was blocked by a diving play from Doughty.  It was enough to burn the time off the clock and tie the series at two.

**********

The Good: First Period.  Really the only decent part of the game offensively for Anaheim.  They took a little while to get going but did well to turn the momentum on the PK and score all the goals they needed late in the period.

The Bad: Third Period.  Even with a two goal lead, three shots on goal in 20 minutes isn't ideal, but also not completely unexpected.  The Ducks did much better in the third than they did in the second (more on that in a bit) to slow the Kings down through the neutral zone and even on their breakouts.

The Ugly: Second Period.  ZERO F***ING SHOTS ON GOAL.  ZERO!!!! The third period was understandable, but this was a complete and utter abomination of hockey.  Yes, the Kings deserve credit for driving the play and it eventually turned out for the best, but sitting back that badly, that early is just playing with fire.

**********

3rd MVD: John Gibson.  I guess I have to put goalie Jesus on the list.  It was a shutout, he was in net.  28 saves and a couple of beauties.  He didn't look particularly amazing at times and totally got bailed out by his defense and by Ryan Getzlaf (see the next two stars) but he gets credit for the win and the shutout and that's all that matters in the playoffs.  It was also the first time a rookie goalie got a shutout in his first playoff game since Jonas Hiller did it in Game 1 vs. San Jose in 2009.  Ironic.

2nd MVD: The entire Defense.  25 blocks.  Just like in Gibson's first regular season game, the Ducks fell back and created an impenetrable shell around him.  You can't really put it on any one player, it was a full team effort to give the Kings a taste of their own medicine from Game 2 and simply shut everything down without an attempt at anything that could be considered offense.  It was stupid.  It was ridiculous.  It was stressful.... but it worked.

1st MVD: Ryan Getzlaf. Goal. Assist. Best save of the night.  In a 2-0 game.  What else is there to say on Captain Duck's 29th Birthday?

Game 5: Monday, May 12, 7pm PT, Honda Center

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