Chart courtesy www.war-on-ice.com
Nearly the entirety of the first four minutes of the game were spent in the Buffalo end as Matt Beleskey drew a pair of hooking minors on Andre Benoit and Torrey Mitchell. Though the Ducks didn't convert on either of their initial opportunities with the extra man, they directed several shots towards the net of goalie Michal Neuvirth and did a good job of keeping the puck in the zone, or re-establishing on the odd times Buffalo was able to clear. In total the Ducks would get four power play chances in the opening 20 minutes, racking up nine shots while a man up.
With the Ducks pressing the offense Buffalo could scarcely attempt a shot much less put one on net in the opening half of the period, as Matt Moulson missed the net with a wrister 8:54 into the game and Brian Flynn recorded the first on target shot with 9:58 left in the frame. Just after the Sabres had their first shot attempt Corey Perry took a crosscheck to the chops in center ice from Zemgus Girgensons that drew the ire of Perry and the Ducks bench, but not a penalty call. Anaheim got their third man advantage chance when Andre Benoit hooked Andrew Cogliano at 12:32, but the Ducks wouldn't convert until their final power play of the period.
Once again it was Perry in the middle of things, as Andrej Meszaros boarded him behind the net in the Buffalo zone as the Ducks were working a cycle down low. It took Anaheim 49 seconds of their fourth man advantage to take the lead, as Patrick Maroon took a feed from Sami Vatanen at the left side of the crease, and feathered one of his trademark backhand passes to Perry in the slot, who ripped it past Neuvirth for the 1-0 lead.
"Either you want to throw a big hit or get hit early to get yourself into it and get going, I think that sparked me a little bit," Perry told Kent French during the first intermission on Prime Ticket.
The Ducks out-shot Buffalo 17-3 for the period, and had an even more stark advantage in scoring chances at 9-1. The lead could've been even larger as Devante Smith-Pelly caught Neuvirth inattentive on a wrist shot from the far wing that clanged the post short side past the glove of the Sabres netminder.
While Anaheim piled up the shots and attempts in the first period, the majority at even strength came from the perimeter and weren't particularly threatening. Perry had the first great chance of the second stanza 6:09 in, deflecting a shot on Neuvirth with the Ducks having an extra attacker on during a delayed penalty. While Anaheim wouldn't score on the power play, William Karlsson had two solid shots in the waning minutes that were blocked by the Sabres defense. The Ducks kept the puck in the zone though and Hampus Lindholm found Karlsson in the slot, who had enough time to control the pass into his feet and blast a slap shot off the right post and in top corner to extend the lead to 2-0 at 8:15.
"After hitting the post against Detroit I told him he's gotta start aiming for the net not the post, because he hit a bunch in preseason too," Ben Lovejoy told French on Prime Ticket after the game. "Obviously he took my advice, and has really been bearing down and putting them in. It's been fun to be on the ice with him, he's a good player."
On the shift following the goal the Ducks would lose Maroon for the remainder of the game on a low bridge hit by Josh Gorges at center ice. Maroon tried to make a move up the near wall, but Gorges bent over at the waist and went for a hip check where his right leg made the initial contact with Maroon's knee. Maroon would be helped off the ice without putting any weight on his left leg and was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a lower body injury. According to coach Bruce Boudreau on the post game show the team will not have an update on his condition until tomorrow. Good sign, though after the game as Eric Stephens reported seeing Maroon walk with some kind of protection on his leg.
After the injury Anaheim was forced to shuffle the lines, with Beleskey getting moved up to the top line. Tim Jackman and Mike Weber threw fists shortly after the Maroon injury, but nothing further came of it. The Ducks once again out-shot Buffalo 12-4 in the period, and out-chanced the hosts by a 6-2 margin. Perhaps the Sabres best chance came with Sam Reinhart momentarily alone in the slot, but Frederik Andersen was equal to the task.
On commentary during the intermission Brian Hayward pointed out that the Sabres still had a "punchers chance" of getting back into the game trailing only by the two goals at the start of the final frame.
The Ducks made short work of that notion by coming out and scoring goals on back-to-back shifts in the first 3:15 of the third. Getzlaf made a nice cross rink pass to Lovejoy at the far point, who skated down to the circle before unleashing a shot in traffic that Beleskey deflected home to make it 3-0.On the following shift Neuvirth again fell asleep in the crease, as on a dump in by Cam Fowler Jakob Silfverberg went behind the net to sneak it out front, and Karlsson batted it home out of midair to make it 4-0 3:15 into period three.
Buffalo scored their only goal of the game just over three minutes later when Clayton Stoner and Nate Thompson were caught behind the net pressing Moulson. Moulson was able to find Tyler Ennis cutting in from the far circle, and he snapped a shot short-side past Andersen. Thompson would later get into it with Cody McCormick on a draw in the Sabres zone, with the two tangling up off the draw, and then finding each other in a scrum following a snow-shower by Perry on Neuvirth.
The Ducks closed the scoring when Stoner sprung Kesler with a nice feed through center that allowed him to split the Buffalo defense, only to be taken down by Meszaros and earn a penalty shot. Kesler skated in slowly and ragging across the slot wristed one low over the pad and past the blocker on Neuvirth for his first career penalty shot goal and the finally tally of the game at 12:25.
"We knew that team was going to be hungry, and we nipped that in the bud right off the bat. We played a full 60 minutes, it was a solid offensive effort but out defensive effort was pretty incredible as well," Kesler said to French during the post game show on Prime Ticket.
"We did what we planned to do, but I was a little worried after one when you outplay an opponent that bad and it's only a 1-0 game. Give our guys a ton of credit because they did the same thing in the second period, and came out with the same energy and didn't have a let up other than maybe two or three minutes in the third period. That's a 60 minute game and that's what you need to survive," said Boudreau to French on Prime Ticket.
Good: Complete and utter domination, exactly the sort of effort you'd want to see against an opponent like the Sabres. All but two players finished with a positive differential for unblocked shot attempts while on the ice, with Fowler leading the way at +29. Karlsson and Silfverberg were the Ducks top forwards in that regard, each finishing +22 in unblocked shot attempt differential.
Bad: Though it's complete nitpicking, you'd like to see the power play convert more than one of their six opportunities, especially considering the nine shots they got. Still, the puck movement was crisp and the Ducks had some good looks. One could also point to the goal against, but really that was the only miscue from the unit aside from a ghoulish puck handling gaffe by Andersen in the first.
Ugly: Gorges hit on Maroon was not pretty, and the Ducks will really miss his play on the top line as well as power play unit should he miss extended time due to an injury stemming from it.
3rd MVD: Jakob Silfverberg- While Silfverberg hasn't quite found the scoring touch fans having been hoping to see from him, his chemistry with fellow Swede Karlsson became really apparent as the game went along. Two assists and being one of the main drivers of play, albeit being sheltered as far as zone starts (second highest on the team at 21.4% offensive zone starts relative), was a solid performance.
2nd MVD: Ryan Kesler- Much of the narrative early on this season has been the arms race for skilled centers in the West, and Kesler has been everything the Ducks could've hoped he'd be to this point. He picked up his second goal of the season on the penalty shot, and moved into a tie for the team lead with Perry and Getzlaf at five points on the year. Not to mention he also won 80% of his faceoffs, tops on the team in a game where the Ducks dominated at the dot as well.
1st MVD: William Karlsson- "Wild Bill" as the team is calling him had quite the coming out party, scoring his first two goals of the season and being active all game long. With discussion centering on whether he or Rickard Rakell will end up taking the third center spot, this was a strong statement on his part. However, one potential silver lining to the Maroon injury is it could give Rakell a shot on the wing. Nonetheless, Karlsson finished tied with Kesler for a team-high six shots, and made a play of impact nearly every time he was on the ice.
Next Game: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 @ Philadelphia 4PM PT