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Ducks Lose Despite Comeback and Hat Trick

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The Ducks' offense was dangerous as advertised, unfortunately so was their defense.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Final Score:  Ducks 4, Penguins 6

ducks pens 10-9-14 fenwick chart
chart via WAR-on-ice.com

First period

The game started marginally in Pittsburgh's favor, they got the first chance of the game when Steve Downie was left wide open in front of John Gibson and Downie got it to the backhand but Gibson was able to get his pad on it.  It was a good save, but the Penguins opened the scoring right off the next faceoff as Patric Horqvist's shot from the hash marks took a slight deflection off of Cam Fowler and fluttered over Gibson's glove.

The Ducks got their first chance from Ryan Kesler in the slot with lots of traffic in front.  Unfortunately Pittsburgh transitioned the other way very quickly, Sidney Crosby got a step on Ben Lovejoy and scored from the faceoff circle.  Gibson got an elbow on it, but should have made the save.  2-0 Pens 7:22 in the first.

Immediately after Crosby's goal Ryan Getzlaf had Marc Andre Fleury beat, but rang a point blank chance off the post.  Two minutes later, Getzlaf went off for tripping Kris Letang in the neutral zone.  The kill didn't allow any shots and, in fact Andrew Cogliano had a shorthanded chance, driving to the net, but couldn't control the pass from Kesler to make anything of it.

It looked just about over when Pascal Dupuis finished off a one timer on a pretty passing play that had the Emerson Etem, Rickard Rakell, Devante Smith-Pelly line chasing all over the zone.  3-0 Penguins.

At that point the Ducks started to get it going, thanks to a strong shift from the top line buzzing around the net.  One shot almost deflected in off of Corey Perry in the crease and Getzlaf tried to snipe one short side on Fleury but couldn't beat the maligned Penguins' goalie.  The chaos in front did draw a cross checking penalty on Chris Kunitz however.

The new look power play with Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, Sami Vatanen and Maroon wasted no time to get on the board.  Christian Ehrhoff broke his stick on the faceoff and got a replacement from Dupuis.  Getzlaf took that as a green light to dangle around Dupuis and lay off a perfect pass to Kesler for the one timer that MAF had no chance on.

Before the period ended the Ducks had one more opportunity to draw back into the game as a Getzlaf shot deflected twice on its way to the net and once again found iron.  The period ended 3-1 but the Ducks had finally found some life.

2nd period

The Pen settled down to start the period and got back to controlling the puck more, but the first real chance of the second was a partial 2-on-1 with Kesler and Cogs that was smothered by a great play from Simon Despres.

Shortly thereafter the Pens went on their second PP of the night after Clayton Stoner tried to blow up Olli Maatta but he didn't have the puck.  It was another good kill from the Ducks, until the very last seconds when a puck squirted out to Paul Martin and Gibson had to make a ten-bell-save with the blocker to keep the Ducks within shouting distance.

Then Fleury pulled a Fleury.  He came out to play the puck, got some pressure, almost played it outside of the trapezoid and turned it right over to Patrick Maroon behind the net.  Maroon got it in front for a charging Perry who got just enough of it to beat Fleury back and bring the Ducks within one.

The Ducks caught an equally big break about a minute later, when Dupuis scored on a wide open net, but Evgeni Malkin was deemed to have interfered with Gibson as he crossed the crease.  Malkin was definitely tied up with Lovejoy and had very little choice but to make contact with Gibson who couldn't make a move for the shot.  So, no goal, no penalty.  Good call from our perspective, somewhat understandable gripe from the other side.

Then things got really nutty, and not just because Nate Thompson was on a partial breakaway.  He got behind the defense because the Ducks caught them on a terrible line change with too many men on the ice.  He was baring down on Fleury with the delayed penalty when Ehrhoff caught him with a slight hook on the hands.  So it was a penalty shot for hooking AND a two minute minor for too many men.

Thompson went to the backhand but couldn't get it over Fleury's pad/glove.  No matter though, because Corey Perry tied it up with his second goal of the night on the ensuing power play.  Kesler came off the wall, squeezed a pass through a couple of bodies to Perry in the high slot for a quick shot that went off of Fleury's arm and in.  Improbably it was a brand new game, thanks to perfect special teams by the Ducks.

And they would go back on the man advantage when DSP was hooked by Nick Spaling in the neutral zone.  This time, however, it looked like the Ducks PP from last year.  They were in shambles trying to get into the zone and never got anything of value off of it.

Then the penalty kill cracked.  Early in Matt Beleskey's high sticking penalty Gibson made a save on Sid that kicked out a big rebound but he had no idea where it went, but it luckily fell to the Ducks for a clearance.  Later in the penalty Vatanen got caught pinching at the blueline letting the Pens in on a partial 3-on-1.  Dupuis drove the center lane, Stoner stayed with him giving Crosby WAYYYYYYYYYYYY too much time and space.  He picked his spot and sniped it low off the post and in.

But the period wasn't over.  Maatta jumped into the play to create a 3-on-2 for Pittsburgh with a minute and a half left and set up Blake Comeau for a one timer that Gibson never had a chance on.  And despite the Ducks valiant comeback to tie the game, they trailed by two after 40 minutes.

Third period

Right away in the final period the Ducks went on an early power play with Malkin going off for hooking Kesler, but Getzlaf turned the puck over at his own blueline to Dupuis.  Brandon Sutter jumped into the play deked Gibson to the backhand and scored an easy shorthanded goal to return Pittsburgh to a three goal lead.  Plenty of blame to go around for that one from the turnover to some very casual goaltending.

For the next five minutes or so, the Penguins were doing a good job of taking the sting out of the game.  Kesler put some spice back into it though with a big hit on Letang.  It created a turnover and a quality chance for Jakob Silfverberg that suck through Fleury but trickled wide and drew a retaliation penalty by Comeau.  The power play didn't result in anything, as the Pens did a good job of holding the line and the Ducks tried as much as they could not to dump it in.

The Ducks had a couple of cracks in front of Fleury, but they came from guys like Thompson and Tim Jackman.

With five minutes left, Stoner and Zach Sill dropped the gloves for a pure sideshow, but high marks for effort on both parts, throwing haymakers the whole way.

The Ducks got one last power play, and made it count for something, as Perry chopped it in off the crossbar for an inconsequential hat trick.

With just over a minute and a half left Emerson Etem interfered with Fleury to officially wrap up the game with a Pens power play and a 6-4 final score.

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Good: Ryan Kesler was fantastic, authoring most of the Ducks Grade-A chances at even strength and involved in all three power play goals.  Even in the third period with the game all but over, he kept things interesting.

Obviously Corey Perry's hat trick is a small consolation as well, he knew exactly where to be at exactly the right times tonight, especially on the power play.  Shorthanded goal aside, the power play was also a huge leap forward from last year.

Bad: For the second year in a row the Ducks gave up six goals in their season opener.  I wouldn't hang this entire game on Gibson, he was by no means good, but there were plenty of mistakes in front of him as well.  Turnovers, time and space for Sid, players out of position, really just a different reason for each of the many, many goals, as you would expect when there are six goals against.

Ugly: I think the most disappointing part though, was how quickly the Pens rebounded after the Ducks got back to even at 3-3.  One would think that pulling back from such a huge deficit would have a more positive effect on the comeback-ers as opposed to the comeback-ees (if I may make up a couple of words).  But the Ducks really just proved that the mini comeback was more a function of a few opportunities than an actual turn of the tide.

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3rd Icehole: John Gibson - Unfortunately the homecoming for Gibson was unceremonious to say the least.  As I said, the entire game can't be blamed on him, but he definitely should have had

2nd Icehole: Sidney Crosby - he made it look easy, with some help from the Ducks defense, putting up two goals and an assist.  Especially in the first period he seemed to be all over the ice.  What else can you say about the best player in the game against a subpar defense?

1st Icehole: Pascal Dupuis - four points, and could have had another goal if the referees took a different view of goalie interference.  After missing the vast majority of last season he's hit the ground running in 2014-15.

Next Game: Saturday, October 11, 2014 @ Detroit 4pm PT