Final Score: Ducks 1, Sharks 3
A little more than one minute into the game, the Sharks’ first line was able to do what the first line was supposed to do--score. After Frederick Anderson easily turned away Joe Pavelski’s shot, Pavelski gathered his own rebound, went around the net and found Brent Burns in the middle for the first goal of the game.
The early goal would set the tone of the game to the advantage of the Sharks. The Sharks continued to take advantage of the Ducks’ inability to clear their defensive zone by rushing the net. A few odd man rushes created dangerous chances and tested Anderson early on throughout the first period. It took almost five minutes before Daniel Winnik would put a shot on goal for Anaheim.
The Sharks did lose Tommy Wingels early off in the game when he headed to the locker room after awkwardly hitting the boards in an attempt to finish a hit on Mark Fistric. Fistric was also shaken up by the collision but was able to return to the ice with almost 15 minutes left in the period.
The first penalty went to the Sharks after Francois Beauchemin would draw an interference call from Pavelski. The ensuing power play was unsuccessful. The Sharks also earned a dangerous shorthanded breakaway for Desjardins and Joe Thornton. With the momentum in the home team’s favor, the Sharks smelled blood around the twice-bitten Ducks, and only Anderson could keep them at bay.
The Sharks would strike again when Logan Couture would easily skate around a slow Beauchemin, and break his scoring drought with his 100th career goal. The last time he scored was during the 4-3 Sharks SO win over the Ducks.
Puck possession finally gravitated towards the Ducks’ favor at the end of the first period. The fourth line continued to provide grit, there was not enough skill to score. The first line did create dangerous pressure making it look like the Ducks were on a powerplay, but it was not enough to get past the Sharks netminder Antti Niemi. The ill-fated period would end with the Ducks on a power kill after Andrew Cogliano received a cross-checking penalty for hitting Logan Couture. While the Ducks barely managed to outshoot the Sharks 14-13, the Sharks came out with a dominant 2 goal lead.
Second Period Recap: The second period would not bode much better for the Ducks despite the improved pressure on the Sharks. The period opened with the successful kill for the powerplay left over from the first period, but despite creating some decent pressure, the first line was unable to execute and score. When the puck did manage to head toward the goal, Niemi easily denied any chance.
The Selanne-less second line consisting of Bonino-Palmieri-Silfverberg really stepped up to pressure the Sharks in their own zone, but that gathering momentum quickly turned in favor of the Sharks when Desjardins beat Bonino to attempt a wrap-around. While Anderson made a nice save, the fat rebound floated in front of an open net for Kearns to put away his first NHL goal as a 32-year-old. At this point, you just have to wonder why of all games this would be the one for the Sharks to record some firsts. And just like that, the Ducks found themselves down 0-3.
Just when you thought things could not get any worse for the Ducks, Winnik sprawled onto the ice after taking Vlasic’s elbow to the face. The Ducks had already received an early scare when Cogliano was literally pulled off the ice onto the bench when he took the puck to the ankle. Winnik did head into the locker room with a bloody nose but not without some choice words for the refs. Because Vlasic and Winnik had been chirping at one another earlier on, Winnik probably didn’t consider the elbow a mere accident.
Down three goals, Bruce Boudreau acted as he knew best and began shuffling the lines. Penner was moved down while Palmieri was reunited with the first line with the hope of sparking the roadtrip chemistry. While the move did activate much more pressure to the Sharks’ defensive end, Niemi was able to hold the fort despite the Ducks outshooting the Sharks 10-6.
Third Period Recap: The Ducks came into the 3rd period with one clear goal in mind: get the puck to the net. While the Ducks did take more shots, they failed to position themselves for the rebounds that may have ended in a goal. Overall, the third period followed the second period’s suit with the Ducks doing a much better job putting pressure in the Sharks’ zone. An angry first line had Perry shooting and shoving the puck towards the net as often as possible. A brief moment of hope came five minutes into the period, when he did just that forcing the puck to drift its way under Niemi and clearly over the goal line just as the whistle blew. But upon further review, the play was called no-goal on account of the ref’s intent to blow the whistle. So f*** you ref for smashing the glimmer of hope we had early in the period.
Angry Ducks have shown to a) produce better results; or b) take stupid penalties. In this case, both happened. The WinKoCo line once again did a great job in keeping the puck in the Sharks’ zone and forcing the Sharks to take an icing. The Ducks ran the cycle against their tired opponents but once again the Sharks netminder turned any opportunity away. Therefore, a frustrated Corey Perry made a frustrated Corey Perry move and shamelessly punched Stewart in the jaw. Despite a few chances created by the Sharks running a cycle, the Ducks were able to kill the power play and come out unscathed.
At 11:32, Niemi’s shutout was spoiled after Perry set up a perfect pass from behind the net to Patrick Maroon at the left circle. Winning the puck battles behind the net finally paid off.
With a little more than 8 minutes left in the game and a 2 point differential, both teams reached a desperation mode. On a 3-on-3 rush, Logan Couture nearly scored his second goal when puck rang off the crossbar. The Sharks made the mistake once of letting off the gas pedal, and they did not intend to make the same mistake twice. They pressured the Ducks defense deep in the Anaheim zone preventing a swift transition to the offensive zone. Anderson did not have an ample opportunity to leave his net because the Ducks could not penetrate into the Sharks’ territory. With that, the Sharks shutdown any hope for a first-game-like renaissance and snapped the Ducks’ 10 game win streak.
The Good: The Ducks did show the ability to bounce back and pressure the offensive zone. By winning battles along the boards and effectively rotating within the offensive zone, the Ducks did create some dangerous opportunities. But just like Saturday night's game against the Coyotes (despite the win), they could not finish to post goals on the scoreboard. Tonight was just not the night and the puck did not find itself in the back of the net.
The Bad: The Ducks' power play has once again come to resemble the mess it had been in the beginning of the season. Tonight was a perfect example with the first power play ending on a shorthanded opportunity for the Sharks. Honestly, if the Ducks are going to continue vying for the playoffs, they really need to figure out how to execute consistency on the man advantage.
The Ugly: The Ducks were doomed after the first period of the game. The Sharks did what they do best at the Shark tank by outskating and outplaying the Ducks the opening shifts of the game. The Sharks took advantage of the shaken Ducks and continued to look for loose passes. The Sharks had 13 total takeaways, one of them which ended in a goal. Mismanagement of the puck leads to too many odd man rushes. And let's not forget the abysmal face-off percentage, one that directly did lead to another Sharks goal as well. Anderson did his best to bail out the Ducks but clearly it wasn't enough.
3rd Icehole: Joe Pavelski was essential to the Sharks victory. His speed and relentless chase of the puck kept the Sharks ahead of the Ducks during the first half of the game. His refusal to give up the puck behind the net led to the first goal a minute into the game. Despite the line juggling by the Sharks, moving Pavelski to the top line only propelled them forward tonight.
2nd Icehole: Antti Niemi crushed all dreams for the Ducks to make a come back. While he didn't make too many spectacular saves, he was completely solid and prevented any loose rebounds from coming back towards his net. The Ducks failed to figure him out and for the second time this season he has come out with the win.
1st Icehole: Francois Beauchemin was on the ice for all three goals. He was to blame for the Sharks' 2nd goal of the game by Logan Couture. As mentioned before, he looks extra slow this season and it's cost the Ducks in many different instances. Mishandling the puck also led to a few odd man rushes only to be saved by Anderson. Of all the defensive setbacks that occurred during the beginning of the game, Beauch was the thing in common. As a staunch veteran who had a spectacular season last year, he looks extremely slow and lacks the energy the Ducks need to win the close games.
Next Game: Round 3 for Redemption-Tuesday, December 31st (New Year's Eve) 5:00 PST back at Home against the San Jose Sharks