Final Score: Ducks 3, Canucks 1
As noted in the game preview, Anaheim was playing without Bobby Ryan (flu), Luca Sbisa (lower body) and scratched Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Bryan Allen. Amazingly after all of those scratches and Andrew Cogliano moving to center, Emerson Etem still couldn't find his way off the fourth line.
First Period Recap: The Ducks had the better of a rather uneventful first period. They got the first power play opportunity of the game on an Alexandre Burrows hook, and as you might expect the Getzlaf-less PP unit was less than impressive.
One of the best opportunities for the Ducks was a partial 2-on-1 in which Nick Bonino got the puck to Kyle Palmieri, but he was only able to direct the puck onto Roberto Luongo in a slightly awkward way, rather than getting a true shot off.
Vancouver's only real shift of sustained pressure oddly started with Sami Vatanen making a nice play as the Sedins came in on a 2-on-1 break. It wasn't exactly textbook Sedin magic, but Sami showed a lot of poise and patience to wait Henrik out and not allow them to get a shot off initially. The rest of the shift was a flurry of chances for the Canucks but Jonas Hiller was up to the task.
After that surge by Vancouver, the Ducks had one more quality opportunity as the puck was lifted over the head of a Canuck defenseman and Corey Perry won a race to it, but again could only chip it toward Luongo. The period ended as it started, but the Ducks out shot Vancouver 11-5.
Second Period Recap: Anaheim took the momentum over in a big way with a fantastic penalty kill four minutes into the second. Cogliano went off for tripping but the Ducks carried the play while shorthanded. David Steckel carried the puck from his own blueline into the Vancouver zone and got a shot off, Bonino gathered the rebound and took it straight into the crease. The chances weren't that dangerous but burned valuable time off the penalty. On the next shift, Daniel Winnik and Etem went in on a 2-on-1, drawing a penalty and Winnik's attempted cross crease pass was deflected right onto Luongo's pad by a Canuck defender.
Vancouver had the best opportunity of the subsequent 4-on-4 play, but a ridiculous sounding PP unit of Matt Beleskey, Bonino, Palmieri, Vatanen and Cam Fowler cashed in on the truncated man advantage. Fowler's point shot was deftly deflected past Luongo by Beleskey right at the top of the crease. It was Cam's third point in his last four games, hopefully getting the ketchup bottle flowing at the right time.
About a minute and a half later, something nobody could have predicted happened. BRAD STAUBITZ SCORED A GOAL!?!?!? He came in on a rush with Steckel who sent a rink wide pass to Staubtiz at the blueline. He was slightly pressured and just let a wrister go from the top of the circle that somehow beat Luongo. Maybe Luongo wasn't expecting a shot, because he's Brad F***ING Staubitz, but Lou's gotta have that one.
With 5:20 left in the period, Mason Raymond was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after spraying snow on Hiller as the Ducks' goalie covered the puck. The Hockey Gods were kind to the Canucks as the Ducks didn't capitalize on that ridiculous penalty.
Perhaps Vancouver's best opportunity of the period was a rush by the second line that resulted in a Ryan Kesler point shot and a nifty little kick save by Hiller. Again, the Ducks severely out shot Vancouver in the period (14-4) bringing the game total to 25-9 through 40 minutes.
Third Period Recap: To start the third period Alain Vigneault began mixing up his lines, which is ironic since he was playing all of his stars in an effort to build chemistry and iron out the kinks going into the playoffs. Meanwhile, notorious line shuffler Bruce Boudreau stuck with all of his combos, despite this being the first (and probably only) game of just about all of them.
Still, the period was decidedly different as the Ducks went into lead protecting mode. As a result, after two full periods of not doing much, Hiller was tested in the third. Most of the period was marked by Canuck possession in the Ducks's zone and Anaheim sending only one forechecker the other way.
Fowler and Vatanen started getting beat a little more often at the blueline. One major chance came as Higgins zipped a pass through the neutral zone to Jannik Hansen, giving him space behind Fowler. He just ended up throwing the puck on net, but it started one of Vancouver's many prolonged shifts in the offensive zone. Later in the period Vatanen was twisted completely inside out by Higgins, who might have been the Canucks' best player in the game, kicking off another long defensive shift that Hiller eventually ended by covering the puck behind the net.
The Ducks had two extended shifts in the offensive zone that come to mind, both by the fourth line of Staubitz, Steckel and Etem. On the first they had two chances, created by hard forechecking behind the net and jamming the puck into the crease. Later on, they mainly controlled the puck along the boards, but it was notable for the fact that Keith Ballard attempted to draw Staubitz into a fight, but "Starburns" declined.
He may have been called pusilanimous by his opponents but in reality it was a brave and smart decision. Not only would it have been pointless to fight while leading 2-0 on the road, but he also likely knows that in the playoffs he won't be called upon to fight much and improves his scant chances of getting a roster spot by contributing with his skates and stick rather than his fists.
The period really came to a head though with four and a half minutes left as Ben Lovejoy was sent off for hooking. The kill was going well, without a Canucks shot, until Sheldon Souray was called for high sticking Burrows (double minor). It took only 20 seconds of 5-on-3 for a Jason Garrison slap shot, screened by a jumping Henrik Sedin, to go off the post and in, ruining Hiller's shutout bid.
Strong defensive plays by Toni Lydman and Etem killed off the first part of Souray's double minor and with roughly 1:30 left Luongo was pulled for the extra attacker to make it a 6-on-4. Vancouver moved the puck with ease around the exhausted Ducks' penalty killers until Cogliano gathered a fat rebound and slung it into the empty net from the top of the circles in his own end.
Vancouver out shot the Ducks 20-5 in the third, but Staubitz's goal stood up as the game winner (never thought I'd say that).
The Good: Without a number of veterans in the lineup, everyone stepped up and played a really well structured and balanced game.....
The Bad: ...... only for 40 minutes. It's not that they were terrible in the third period, but there was just no attack of any kind attempted. I understand the mindset of protecting a lead in the third period, but it would have been nice to see more of what we got in the first two, and it probably would have worked just as well.
The Ugly: It's a very good thing that this is difficult, but I guess I'll double up and go with 20 shots against in the third period, more than twice as many as the first two combined.
Next Game: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 7:00pm vs. Phoenix Coyotes. Fan Appreciation Night!