Final Score: Anaheim Ducks 2, Minnesota Wild 1
First Period Recap: As we noted in the preview, Jonas Hiller got the start tonight, after Viktor Fasth went down with a "minor upper-body" injury in the morning skate. Which meant the Ducks started with local goalie coach Zach Sikich backing Hiller up. Jeff Deslauriers arrived about five minutes into the first period. As it turned out, starting Hiller was not a bad thing.
Minnesota almost took the lead two and a half minutes in as Torrey Mitchell absolutely roasted Bryan Allen at the blueline and hoisted the puck over Hiller's glove. MItchell thought he scored, but the puck hit the crossbar and never crossed the line. One-Time Bane of the Ducks' Existence, Mike Rupp had several whacks at the puck as it flirted with the goal line, but Cam Fowler was able to tuck it under Hiller before Rupper could cash in.
The Ducks got a power play early on, but couldn't set up in the zone. The Wild did not have that problem. Half way through the period they ended up with 90 seconds of 5-on-3. The Ducks killed it off, thanks in large part to Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray (but mostly Beauch) refusing to let passes across, blocking shots, and just plain dominating the play down low.
Later in the period the recently called up Patrick Maroon squared off with former Duck Zenon Konopka for a rematch of their fight in the last Ducks/Wild matchup. It was a marathon bout that Maroon started off well, but faded as he was worn down by Konopka.
Two minutes after the fight, the Ducks would go shorthanded again, on a Luca Sbisa high stick. This time the PK was broken down by a cross ice pass from former Duck, current Duck-Killer and soon to be UFA (hint, hint) Matt Cullen to Devin Setoguchi for the one-timer past Hiller. Important to note that this time it was Bryan Allen and Toni Lydman on the second PK unit that were victimized.
Not a good period for the Ducks; they were lucky to come out of it down by only one. I found it strange at this point that the Ducks have conditioned me to not worry about giving up the first goal anymore.
Second Period Recap: The second period was much of the same. Ryan Getzlaf took a hooking penalty 45 seconds in, but the play that defined the period was made by his partner in crime (bad choice of words).
Corey Perry caught Newport Beach native Jason Zucker admiring a pass and absolutely CRUSHED him. Originally the call was only going to be a two minute minor for interference, but as Zucker laid flat on the ice the officials convened and decided to bump the penalty up to a five minute major for interference and Game Misconduct. Zucker eventually sat up and skated off with help. The hit will definitely be reviewed by Brendan Shannahan, but it was difficult to see whether Perry made contact with Zucker's head or the damage was done as he hit the ice. Bourne seems to be pretty confident there was head contact, but my biased eyes can't tell.
The five minute penalty kill was UN-F***ING-BELIEVABLE. Instead of just surviving in the zone through great defensive play, the Ducks put a ton of pressure on the Wild power play unit. Andrew Cogliano and Emerson Etem had the best chances through the first four minutes, one of which hit the post. As the penalty time wore down, Zach Parise had three cracks at a rebound off of Hiller's pad, but the Swiss goalie held firm and stopped the 98 million dollar man.
Somehow the Duck survived the period without giving up a goal, and still only trailed 1-0 despite being out shot 18-7 through 40 minutes.
Third Period Recap: Thanks to all the penalty killing, and lack of Perry, Bruce Boudreau leaned on his fourth line more than usual late in the game, and Maroon rewarded him in a big way.
Three minutes into the third, Maroon took an entire shift over, and changed the entire feel of the game. Brandon McMillan dumped the puck in, Maroon hammered Tom Gilbert on the boards, chased the puck down behind the net, zipped a pass to Lydman at the point, which rebounded off the end boards and Maroon casually tapped it into the empty net with one hand on his stick. It's too bad you can't assist on your own goal because Maroon totally deserved the secondary assist on that one in addition to the goal; and it would have given him the Gordie Howe hat trick.
After that, the Ducks kicked it into gear. They really started skating and taking the play to Minnesota. About halfway through the period Kyle Brodziak was sent off for interference, as the penalty expired Bobby Ryan got a lucky bounce off of a great defensive play by Ryan Suter and was absolutely robbed by a diving soccer save by Nicklas Backstrom.
With only three minutes to go, Teemu Selanne flung a puck on net that rebounded waaaaaaaay out to Sbisa, who somehow got a one-time wrist shot off while the puck was still on edge, banked it off of Backstrom's mask and in. Suter took a penalty with just over a minute left and Sbisa's goal held up as the game winner.
It's just amazing to watch this team find ways to win. Every. Single. Night. It doesn't even make sense anymore. The comebacks aren't stressful, they're just expected.
The Good: The much maligned Anaheim penalty kill went 4-for-5. Not very impressive, but considering it included a 5-on-3 and a five minute major, it was amazing. And even though 80% isn't much to write home about, it brought the team's horrific season percentage all the way up to 77% (28/30 league wide. Uuughh!). Special stick tap to Cogs, Etem, Beauch and Hiller for simply fantastic work.
The Bad: Partially due to the penalty parade, the Ducks were on their heels for 43 minutes and Hiller was the man. One of these days the slow starts are going to catch up with this team, but for now they've won their last seven games when giving up the first goal.
The Ugly: The Perry/Zucker hit, was scary. I still can't tell if Zucker's head was the principle point of contact OR if Perry targeted it and it has to be both to qualify for a rule 48 suspension, but I could easily see Shanny giving Perry a few games. I guess the silver lining is, if he does get Shannabanned the Ducks will have a little taste of what life is like without the former Hart Trophy winner to inform Bob Murray's strategy/decisions.
Next Game: Thursday, Mar. 14 at 5:30 pm PT, at Dallas