Final Score: Ducks 3, Coyotes 2
(NOTE: I was at Honda Center for this game, so most of this will come from what I noticed during the game with the help of the box score for accuracy.)
First Period Recap: On the second night of back-to-back games, the Phoenix Coyotes went with Thomas Greiss in net. Hiller got the start in net for the Ducks. This was the first game at Honda Center in two weeks and the place was packed. Later in the game it was announced as a sellout.
The game started off a little slow with the Coyotes getting the first few shots on goal. There was no one line that could get possession of the puck for the Ducks, and eventually Bryan Allen was called for a hooking penalty just minutes into the game. The Coyotes' power play was ranked ninth in the League going up against the Ducks' 21st ranked penalty kill. This did not show at all, as the Ducks dominated the penalty kill and wouldn't allow the Coyotes to get set up on the power play.
The PK gave the Ducks some momentum that led to great shifts from Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The big line was able to keep possession of the puck down low and caused problems for the Phoenix defenders. The Ducks went on their own power play after Sami Vatanen was hooked behind his own net. The ensuing power play had some good chances but Greiss made some great saves to keep the game scoreless.
The momentum from the power play carried over until Jakob Silfverberg took a high-sticking penalty in the offensive zone. The Ducks' penalty kill continued right where it left off and held the Coyotes at bay. Daniel Winnik managed to get the puck up ice to Saku Koivu while shorthanded. Koivu used Mike Ribeiro as a screen and fired a slap shot passed Greiss for the 250th goal of his career.
The Ducks kept putting pressure on Phoenix and finished the period leading 1-0 and leading in shots 14-5.
Second Period Recap: The second period was a carbon copy of the first in regard to defensive play for the Ducks. Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy did a great job shutting down Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal. The Coyotes couldn't generate much aside from single shot attempts on the rush. It was pretty obvious that the team was missing Shane Doan and his physical play. It wasn't until late in the period that the game even began to resemble a division matchup.
Without the play of Greiss, the Ducks could have had a 3-0 lead after two power play attempts in the period. Perry, Teemu Selanne and Nick Bonino were just a few that were robbed on the power play by Greiss. Hiller was having one of those games where he was reading the play and getting the puck to stick to him without leaving rebounds.
Toward the end of the period Matt Beleskey became the target of a clearly frustrated Coyotes team. It was obvious that Phoenix was targeting him for his willingness to drop the gloves in the previous games, but Beleskey didn't fall for it. The Ducks ended another period with a great overall defensive effort leading in shots 30-19.
Third Period Recap: The Ducks started the third period off great, getting an early goal that deflected off of Andrew Cogliano after a nice passing and tip play with Koivu and Winnik. Now with the dreaded 2-0 lead, the Ducks didn't let up on the offense. The possession game continued as the Ducks defensemen refused to just dump the puck in the zone.
While puck possession is what gave the Ducks the edge in the first two periods, the demonic possession of Honda Center is what allowed the Coyotes back in the game. On the weirdest bounce I've ever seen, the puck rimmed around the boards and Hiller went out to play it. The puck bounced out right to the front of a net (this is when I could hear the collective gasp of a sold out Honda Center) and Martin Hanzal shot the puck off Hiller's stick (he nearly made the save on a leaping effort) and in the net.
Now 2-1 with just under five minutes to play, the Coyotes began to put in extra effort on the attack. The Ducks countered by trying to possess the puck and just settle for getting it out of the zone. With under a minute to play and Greiss pulled for the extra attacker, the Coyotes tied the game on a screened tip play that Hiller had no chance on, and just like that, the Ducks were tied in a game that I thought Hiller deserved the shutout.
The camera stayed on Corey Perry as the period wound down and it was clear that he was not happy. The top line looked determined to end the game in regulation, but there wasn't enough time on the clock to do so. The period ended with score tied and the Ducks leading in shots 39-25.
Overtime Recap: Like I mentioned, the Ducks looked determined to get the win. From the opening draw the top line took control and swarmed the Coyotes in their own end. The puck was eventually shot out of play and created an offensive zone draw for the Ducks. A combination of Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Koivu and Cogliano was sent out to take the draw.
Koivu won the face-off back to Lovejoy. Lovejoy and Fowler made two quick passes between each other to create space for Koivu in the slot where he deflected a quick shot from Lovejoy past Greiss and in the net for the game winner. The crowd went crazy and the Ducks did it just 51 seconds into overtime.
The Good: Aside from the bad bounces and giving up the late third period goal, this was a great defensive effort from the whole team. The Winnik, Koivu and Cogliano line was dominant (scoring all three of the goals) and really showed what this line was put together to do. Koivu had the best game of the year and factored in all three goals. Hiller was in the special goalie zone that he gets in and handled himself well after the Coyotes tied the game.
The Bad: Honda Center was typical Honda Center and it ended up costing the Ducks a win in regulation. The bounces off the boards were extra weird tonight and the puck just never seemed to settle down after deflecting off the glass. The Ducks had a chance to put the game away with an empty net but fumbled the puck in the neutral zone and allowed the Coyotes to tie it up late. The team's determination made up for their lapse at the end of the third though.
The Ugly: The ugliest thing in this game was the Coyotes first goal ... but not much else.
3rd MVD: The Defense – All the defensemen had great games. There was only one breakaway that Fowler and Lovejoy shut down without taking a penalty. Hampus Lindholm and Francois Beauchemin were great as usual, and Allen and Sami Vatanen were solid in their own end and managed to lay a few nice hits on the Coyotes.
2nd MVD: Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano – The wingers for the checking line really controlled the play when they were on the ice. Cogliano's speed still fools defenders and Winnik's passing ability has become something to watch this season. Winnik had two assists and Cogliano got a goal and was named the official No. 2 star of the game.
1st MVD: Saku Koivu – As if it wasn't obvious enough, Koivu was the best Duck on the ice. A three-point game included his 250th career goal. That shorthanded goal was even prettier in person and his stretch pass to Winnik for the second goal was just as beautiful.The game winning OT goal just topped off a great night for Koivu.
Next Game: Sunday, December 29 – 7:30 p.m. PST @ San Jose Sharks