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Ducks Beat Sabres 4-1, But It Was Closer Than That

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Corey Perry scored two goals in the last three minutes to complete his hat trick, but before that the Sabres were very much in the game.

Running the show... as per usual.
Running the show... as per usual.
Stephen Dunn

Final Score: Anaheim Ducks 4, Buffalo Sabres 1

chart courtesy WAR-on-ice.com

First Period:

The night began with a moment of silence for the events that transpired in Ottawa earlier today, a gesture that was followed by the national anthem and then a ceremonial puck drop by Maria Montero from the Loma Linda University Cancer Center.

Less than a minute into the game, Rasmus Ristolainen leveled Andrew Cogliano with a big hit in the Ducks' zone. A couple minutes later, Tim Jackman got into a short-lived quasi-fight with Cody McCormick, and Jackman came out of it with an extra two minutes for cross checking. During the ensuing Buffalo power play, Cam Fowler blew a clearing attempt, which allowed Tyler Ennis to set up Matt Moulson for a tap-in, but Frederik Andersen got a toe on the redirect and sent it to the corner. Shortly thereafter, Cogliano made a nice play to Devante Smith-Pelly, who rang one off the shortside post shorthanded. After a couple more shorthanded attempts, Mark Fistric turned the puck over to Drew Stafford, who forced Andersen to come up big again.

As the halfway mark of the period approached, Fowler found himself with the puck behind his own net, and eight seconds later it was in the back of the other net, courtesy of Corey Perry. The obvious takeaways from this goal are that Ryan Getzlaf whips up a mean touch pass and Perry has a wicked wrist shot, but what will really please Bruce Boudreau is how well the Ducks moved the puck up the ice. All five players not only touched the puck but advanced it on this play, beginning with Fowler's outlet to Francois Beauchemin, continuing with smart plays by Beauchemin, Smith-Pelly, and Getzlaf, and ending with Perry's snipe.

On the next shift, Hampus Lindholm led the rush into Buffalo's zone and drew an interference call, but the Ducks didn't do a whole lot on their power play. Perhaps the most notable play was Tyler Myers stripping the puck from Perry, getting it stripped back, and then taking it back one last time.

In the two or three minutes following the Ducks' power play, the ice tilted toward Andersen's net. Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno, and in particular Ennis made some good plays and the Ducks' goaltender had to be sharp.

After that, the good guys took over. Between 5:25 remaining in the period and 3:40 remaining, the puck never left the Sabres zone, and Matt Beleskey, William Karlsson, and Rickard Rakell all had grade A scoring opportunities that were either turned away by Michal Neuvirth or missed the net. The Ducks continued to carry play throughout the rest of the period, and Neuvirth had to make a good save on Lindholm on a 3-on-2 with under 30 seconds left. Despite heading to the locker room with a 1-0 lead, the Ducks really didn't look any better than the Sabres until the last six minutes.

Second Period:

On the first shift of the middle frame, Stafford threw the puck on net and the rebound found its way onto the stick of Zemgus Girgensons, who would have tied it but for another toe save by Andersen, this one even more spectacular than the last. Not long after that, Fowler rushed up the ice and handed it off to Jakob Silfverberg, who put a slapshot on net that Neuvirth booted right out to Fowler, and Neuvirth had to make a good second save.

About four minutes into the period, Fowler was under pressure in his own zone, and he made a quick pass to the only "soft" area on the ice — his own crease, where Ben Lovejoy was waiting. Lovejoy was then free to make an easy play up the ice. I remark on this only because it vividly reminded me of a guy named Scott Niedermayer.

A few seconds after that, William Karlsson went for the puck at the Buffalo blue line and was tripped up by Mike Weber. Getzlaf, Perry, and Sami Vatanen all did some good things on the power play, but ultimately came up empty. Two and a half minutes after the penalty expired, Perry showed off some incredible stickhandling, but again Neuvirth stopped him.

On the following shift, the second line found themselves 3-on-2 against the Sabres' defense, and Cogliano passed it to Kesler in the middle, who shot quickly and reaped the benefits of a deflection off Weber. 2-0 Ducks. Less than a minute later, Vatanen lost a battle in his own zone to McCormick, who sent the puck to Andrej Meszaros at the point. Meszaros' ensuing slapshot hit the iron.

With under seven minutes to go, Vatanen dangled through a good chunk of the Sabres' defense and managed to draw a penalty, but both Perry and Getzlaf passed away their two best scoring chances on the power play. In the remaining few minutes, Lindholm and Perry made some nice plays, but the team as a whole was not dominant.

Third Period:

The Ducks saved their worst hockey for the first half of the third period. Take a look at that fancy chart up there, and pay attention to the area between 40 and 50 minutes. The eye test confirmed every bit of that. One of those scoring chances came off a beautiful pass by Getzlaf right onto the tape of . . . Chris Stewart. Another flurry in front resulted in Vatanen taking a penalty, and while the Sabres failed to convert on the power play, they looked plenty dangerous. It was actually after the penalty expired when they got their best chance. Perry turned it over and the puck ended up on Foligno's stick, who moved it to Stewart. The Toronto native was in alone on Andersen, but he missed with a backhand shot, and Andersen covered up his second attempt.

Getzlaf and Etem both had decent chances later on, but nothing extremely dangerous.

With about eight minutes to go, Myers held up Vatanen, and the replay makes it pretty clear that Sami sold the call as best he could. A belligerent Myers then went after the little Finn and earned himself a game misconduct on top of the initial holding call. Perry had a decent opportunity early on in the power play, but after that they could not produce any quality scoring chances.

A minute or so after the penalty expired, Nate Thompson turned the puck over to Moulson, who immediately put it on net, and Ennis was there to score on the rebound, making it a one-goal game with five minutes to go.

It wasn't until under three minutes were left on the clock that Perry sealed it. Getzlaf beat Girgensons to a loose puck (cause by a strange bounce off the glass) in the Sabres' zone and tapped it over to his twin, who blasted a long range one-timer that found its way under Neuvirth's left arm. 3-1 Ducks.

In the final few minutes, Buffalo put on some good pressure, but it wasn't nearly enough to overcome a two-goal deficit, and that deficit only increased when Perry hit the empty net for his second hat trick of the season.

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The Good: Superstar talent. The Ducks found themselves playing down to the level of their competition at times, but it only took a couple of opportunities for Getzlaf and Perry to create some goals. And while Andersen has a long way to go before he can be considered a superstar, he has been putting on a quite the show this season, and tonight was no exception.

The Bad: Having to rely on superstar talent against an objectively bad hockey team. Don't let the final score fool you; this game was nothing like the last one between these teams. For 57 minutes, it was a close game that could have gone either way, partly because the Ducks seemed content to sit on their two-goal lead, especially in the first half of the third period.

The Ugly: Egregious defensive zone turnovers. I can remember four really bad ones off the top of my head: Fistric in the first, and Getzlaf, Perry, and Thompson in the third. Only one of these (Thompson's) resulted in a goal, but any of the other three could have, and probably would have, against a good team.

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3rd MVD: The Second Line — Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano, and Jakob Silfverberg were hounding the puck all night long. Their box score moment came on Kesler's goal in which all three linemates got a point, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Kesler and Silfverberg teamed up for a couple of nice pass-and-shoot plays, Cogliano burned the Buffalo with his speed multiple times, and all three of them controlled the puck down low very nicely. I thought Silfverberg in particular had maybe his best game of the season.

2nd MVD: Frederik Andersen — Not much needs to be said here. The Great Dane, now 6-0, continues to impress with sound play and the occasional ten-bell save, as Hazie calls them. None were more spectacular than his second period stoning of Girgensons.

1st MVD: Corey Perry — Just another game, just another hat trick. I was actually prepared to give Perry the 1st MVD before he scored his second goal, just on the basis of how much offense he was creating throughout the game. Even if Stewart had scored on Perry's turnover in the third, his contribution in the rest of the game would have far outweighed that one gaffe (which makes him not Nate Thompson).

Next Game: Friday, October 24th, 7:00 PM, vs. Columbus Blue Jackets