Final Score: Anaheim Ducks 2, Minnesota Wild 1
The Ducks didn't exactly seem to play inspired in the early going, as they let Minnesota run wild (ba-dum chhh) with the puck in Frederik Andersen's zone. The home team couldn't even get a possession in the Wild's defensive end, but caught a break when Charlie Coyle took two for holding Sami Vatanen's stick. Minnesota killed the penalty rather effortlessly, though, thanks to running the show inside the faceoff circle.
Chris Wagner's first shift as a Duck drew some good enthusiasm from the crowd, and it almost resulted in a Ducks lead right after he hopped off the bench, as he tracked down the puck along the board with speed and threw it in front of the goalmouth, but an accurate redirect couldn't be made.
The Ducks were playing on their heels for a majority of the opening half of the period, which is to be expected when multiple turnovers are made in one's defensive zone. A lot of said turnovers were off the stick of Hampus Lindholm, which led to the visitors getting some looks on Andersen more often than not. About 10 minutes later than any Anaheim fan was hoping for, the Ducks finally began to show some life. During their strongest shift of the period by far, Mathew Dumba got called for hooking, which was the best thing the team could have asked for while they were desperately trying to build momentum. The man advantage came up empty again, and Tim Jackman turned the tables by taking an interference call with one second left on the Dumba penalty. The game returned to even strength just seconds before the end of the period, and both teams returned to their locker rooms scoreless thanks to some big saves by Andersen.
The Ducks had some more pep in their step to start the second, showing a lot more intensity than they did for the majority of the previous 20 minutes. The Wild would get on the board first, however, as Clayton Stoner got torched by Jason Zucker after losing an edge, and Zucker proceeded to rip a low wrister from the left faceoff circle past Andersen's glove to open up the scoring. Minnesota 1, Anaheim 0
Miscommunication became a central theme for the Ducks; those tape-to-tape passes that are expected of NHL-caliber players weren't connecting, confusion periodically plagued the defensive coverage, and Andersen nearly gave the puck away in the corner, which would have given the Wild an easy 2-0 lead.
The Ducks got a third power play opportunity after a scrap behind Kuemper, that saw Ryan Getzlaf go to the box along with Coyle and Justin Fontaine. The two-minute advantage was again, incredibly ineffective, because like the last two, the Wild dominated faceoffs. How bad was it? Bruce Boudreau sent Nate Thompson out in the last minute of the power play because nobody else could win a faceoff. He was not the difference maker (yet).
Anaheim continued to struggle with the aggressive Minnesota forecheck, but got another break from it as Keith Ballard took Minnesota's fourth penalty of the evening by way of a trip. The power play looked like it was improving on its three prior shortcomings, but the Wild penalty kill did a great job keeping the real estate in front of Kuemper spotless, thus neutralizing any loose gimme chances that may have been there for the taking.
With the Wild forecheck showing more speed than their opposition, Andersen had to play the puck more often to prevent any dangerous setups. He ended up as the cause of one as he sauced the puck right to a Wild player coming down the right boards, who whipped it over to Thomas Vanek in the slot. Andersen had to make amends on his own mistake by coming three feet out of his crease to take the angle away.
The Minnesota pressure continued to come in waves in the period's final minutes, as the Wild began to really connect on their cross-ice passes in the Anaheim zone. By virtue of Jason Pominville fanning on a wide-open net, the deficit mercifully remained at one after 40 minutes.
Kuemper's season-long shutout streak came under heavy fire right as the third began. The Ducks offense looked more dangerous than it had all evening, but like the other spurts of momentum from either team, they were stifled by a penalty. Stoner took a trip to the sin bin for roughing Coyle, and Minnesota went back to executing those dangerous passes across the slot that almost got them another goal at the end of the second.
Andersen's right pad kicked out a juicy rebound to Jared Spurgeon who had most of the cage to shoot at, but by the same good fortune that the Ducks had courtesy of Pominville, he missed the net. It didn't really register to anybody exactly how much of a godsend that was until shortly afterwards, when Devante Smith-Pelly sprung team speedster Andrew Cogliano on a shorthanded breakaway which he would convert, lighting the red lamp behind Kuemper for the first time this season and sending Honda Center into a frenzy. Anaheim 1, Minnesota 1
A very loud "Let's go Ducks" chant permeated the arena, giving the good guys new life, and for the first time all night, Anaheim was without a doubt the more dangerous of the two teams. Matt Beleskey almost made it 2-1 from the edge of the crease with a wide-open tap in, but Kuemper dove over to deny him with the paddle, keeping the score knotted up and earning himself a spot on the SportsCenter Top 10.
New kid Chris Wagner allowed the Wild their fourth power play of the game and with it, a chance to take control back. Andersen once again stood strong, and the Minnesota power play that looked extremely dangerous every time they stepped on the ice, remained at 0% on the season.
When the Ducks returned to full strength, their momentum came back with them. In an attempt to clear the zone, a bad pass from Zucker ended up on the stick of Corey Perry in the slot. Kuemper shut down the initial scoring attempt, and in the scramble that ensued on the rebound, Thompson took both the loose puck and the Minnesota netminder's attention. Instead of going for the quick rebound shot attempt, he dished it across the crease to a waiting Perry, who had a wide open net to cash in on. Anaheim 2, Minnesota 1
Knowing that they had controlled the majority of the game, the Wild refused to let the Ducks take a stranglehold on the home stretch, and came back with a little bit of fire in their eyes. In a game that always had one team dominating the other at any given point, the last few minutes of regulation saw both clubs play very evenly matched hockey, and the situation became more intense while the refs held off on blowing any whistles. After Kuemper raced off to the bench, the Wild became as menacing as ever with the extra attacker. Andersen and the defense managed to hold their ground however, and somehow, the Ducks skated off with a win.
With no contributions on the scoreboard tonight, Ryan Kesler decided to engage in some extracurricular activity after the bell by lining up Mikael Granlund along the boards from a ways away and lighting him up like a Christmas tree. Predictably, this didn't go over well with Zach Parise (who got away with some pretty questionable plays himself) and friends, so the fans in attendance got to treat themselves to a Ducks win AND an after hours brawl! What more could you ask for?
The Good: The whole "Comeback Kids" moniker really suits the team, doesn't it? A stellar third period effort snatched this game away from the Wild, and is a good indicator of what this team is capable of. Hearing that Patrick Maroon will be out for the next four weeks was a bummer, to say the least, and with Rickard Rakell and Dany Heatley out as well, the depth players (read: Wagner, Chris) got to get a little bit of experience under their belt without negatively impacting the end result. Also, it's only the fifth game. The Ducks still have 77 games to iron out these next two sections.
The Bad: The third period was great. The first and second periods were not. Slow starts are a plague that the Ducks know all too well, and it seems that there are times that they don't know how to get out of them. The Wild were the better team for the majority of the night, and they deserved at least a point with how they dominated those first two stanzas. As a matter of fact, if Pominville finishes on that shot in the second period, they would have had one, maybe two. The fact that they're leaving Anaheim empty handed is a little astonishing.
The Ugly: Turnovers and faceoffs. Granted, they gradually got cleaned up as the game progressed, but giving the puck away and losing faceoffs in your defensive zone is a great way to give your opposition some good scoring chances. Controlled clears were very tricky at times for the Ducks, while Minnesota made them look easy (except on this one), which contributed to Anaheim's woes in the first two-thirds of the game. They say possession is nine-tenths of the law; turnovers and faceoff ineptitude are two very effective ways to lose that very important metric, and a lot of games, in a flash.
2nd MVD: Nate Thompson. First and foremost, great play to set up Perry's game-winning goal, but in a game where the Ducks were being solidly outmatched in the faceoff circle, he was the team's most successful center, winning 62% of his draws. When Getzlaf and Kesler are struggling in that department, it's crucial for someone to step up.
1st MVD: Andrew Cogliano. The Ducks desperately needed a goal as the third period began, and he answered the call. His equalizer was the fuel that the team needed to get their collective motor running, and it served its purpose, as everyone in the building wearing a Ducks logo instantly became exponentially more energized. Also, the Ducks now have a better success rate during Minnesota power plays than the Wild do themselves thanks to him.
Next Game: Sunday, October 19th, 5:00 PM, vs. St. Louis Blues