Final Score: Anaheim Ducks 3, Colorado Avalanche 2
Like many other Ducks fans, I had a minor panic attack when I saw not Frederik Andersen, not expected starter John Gibson, but Jason LaBarbera take to the crease to begin the game. Gibson suffered an injury during warm-ups, but wait! With both Ducks goalies unable to play, and LaBarbera being called up last minute, who would serve as the team's backup? Well...
45-year-old goaltending consultant Dwayne Roloson returned to the locker room and prepared himself for any situation that would have thrust him into his first NHL action in three years. [Fun Fact: Roli actually had his mask on in the picture above, but shook it off out of habit to get a whistle when Corey Perry approached -CK] While things didn't get that serious, it didn't take long for fans to start thinking about such a scenario, as the Avs only needed a little more than two minutes to kick off the scoring. Dennis Everberg got his first NHL goal from a harsh angle that LaBarbera absolutely should have stopped, and the uneasiness of Ducks fans due to this tendy emergency began to look a little more justified. Avs 1, Ducks 0
As the Ducks have done from time to time when their opponents do really good things, they started to punch the Avs in the mouth. Maxime Talbot got caught closing his glove on the puck, which sent the Ducks to their first and (spoiler alert) most productive power play of the night. Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon took up all the real estate they could in front of Semyon Varlamov, which led to some good looks by the perimeter and even a couple chances in tight by Maroon, but ultimately, the special teams failed to convert any of them.
About a minute and a half later, the league's top goal scorer, Corey Perry, was sprung on a breakaway by Ryan Getzlaf. Varlamov stopped the initial attempt, but as his momentum carried him into the goal and Perry's moved him forward, the puck deflected off the shaft of Perry's stick (or something) and into the net. The goal was reviewed and it would stand, much to the displeasure of the Pepsi Center crowd. Ducks 1, Avs 1
The game began shifting towards a more physical style of play, with teams trading possession, hits, and thanks to Nick Holden and Getzlaf, penalties. It appeared that both teams were going to go into the first intermission tied, but with a minute left, Nathan MacKinnon found himself at the top of the right faceoff circle with the puck and some open ice. After putting a couple of quick moves around Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly, he unleashed a quick wrister that beat LaBarbera stick side. Avs 2, Ducks 1
The Ducks went into the locker room with a 14-11 shot advantage, but trailed by a goal.
Colorado, looking to add to their lead, began the second by using their speed to break up any and all possessions by the Ducks. Just under three minutes in, Francois Beauchemin went to the box for high-sticking, and the penalty kill unit would have to fight off a team that wasn't feeling too bad about themselves. Cogliano had a breakaway opportunity that was turned aside by Varlamov, and that stood as the only shot on goal by either team for the duration of those two minutes.
After the Ducks returned to even strength, they immediately took complete control of the game. Their efforts took just over a minute to show, when Maroon beat Gabriel Landeskog to a loose puck behind the Colorado net and threw it into the slot to a streaking Hampus Lindholm, who wasted no time firing off a quick shot past Varlamov's blocker. Ducks 2, Avs 2
It didn't take long for the Ducks to strike again. After taking a Cogliano drop-off alongside the left boards, Cam Fowler made his way to the middle of the ice and got Varlamov to commit. When the Colorado goaltender dropped to his butterfly, Fowler pulled the puck to his backhand, getting through three Avalanche defenders in the process, and slammed the puck into a gaping net for a beauty of a goal. In less than two minutes, the Ducks saw a one-goal deficit turn into a one-goal lead. Ducks 3, Avs 2
Anaheim's defense continued to stifle the Avs every which way for the remainder of the second, with the exception of a giveaway just outside the Ducks' blue line that Holden would take the other way in a shorthanded breakaway attempt. Ryan Kesler chased him down, tied him up, and negated the opportunity and somehow, got away from the situation without taking a penalty or giving up a shot on goal. It took the Avs 15 minutes and 31 seconds into the period to test LaBarbera, and they would finish the period with only one more shot, which came from center ice. I repeat, excluding a last second shot from 100 feet away, the Ducks surrendered ONE SHOT ON GOAL throughout the entire second period.
After 40 minutes, those numbers on the scoreboard looked a lot better, as the Ducks were the team with the single-goal lead and a 26-13 shot advantage.
This was the quietest period of the three; neither team really had the upper hand over the other for most of the way. The Avs came close to tying the game with LaBarbera helplessly sprawled out across the crease, but luckily, they couldn't cash in the opportunity.
With time running out, Colorado eventually began to go into panic mode, and in true Patrick Roy form, the coach pulled Varlamov with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. Almost right after Varly made his retreat to the bench, Beauchemin, not one for great timing, took his second penalty of the night, which gave Colorado a two-man advantage. The defense, as they've done throughout this entire road trip, held down the fort and chipped away at the home crowd's hopes of an overtime period.
With 21 seconds left on the clock, captain Landeskog got called for charging Perry, essentially icing the game for the Ducks, who finished the game with the upper hand in shots by a count of 33-18. Maybe the most interesting part of the third period was Roy's refusal to put Varly back in the net, even for the guaranteed D-Zone faceoff after the Landiskog penalty. The Ducks missed the empty net a couple of times, but came away with two points, and a winning record on a pretty brutal road trip.
Somewhat unrelated, this was the first time I got to see this team play in person in eight years, and I was lucky enough to be sitting among a good amount of black and orange jerseys. Ducks fans are fun. I wish I could hang out with them more often.
The Good: The defense came through in a big way once again tonight. As a goalie, it's always a shock to the system when faceoff is about 10 minutes away and the coach pulls you aside and says "by the way, you're starting now". Not only did the D make LaBarbera's job much easier in a game that he or nobody else expected him to play, but both the game-tying and game-winning goals came off a defenseman's stick as well. Also, for emphasis, ONE (but technically two) SHOT ON GOAL IN THE SECOND.
The Bad: Although LaBarbera got the win and made most of the saves he should have made, this isn't a situation that any Ducks fan would want to see again. Andersen's injury is very minor, and Gibson's should be too, but tonight may have been a sign that the goaltending pool in Anaheim is starting to go dry, and if they need one or (God forbid) two guys in relief for Andersen and Gibby, they might want to start looking at alternatives. The next goalie on the depth chart behind LaBarbera is Igor Bobkov, who still needs some development before he'd be ready to take on the NHL. That being said, it might not hurt to dip into the free agent pool to see if there's another goalie that can be trusted for a game or two, should worst come to worst like it did tonight.
The Ugly: Not much, really. After a rough start, the Ducks more or less dominated the game tonight in every way. Granted, it was against a Colorado team that's not looking too hot so far this year, but it still makes for good momentum to return home with.
3rd MVD: Ryan Getzlaf. Two assists from the captain tonight, including the stretch pass to Perry to help get the Ducks on the board.
2nd MVD: Hampus Lindholm. Great two-way hockey from one of the youngest members of this impressive effort by the defensive corps. Can't forget that slick wrister to tie the game up.
1st MVD: Cam Fowler. Another critical piece in the defense that kept Colorado away from LaBarbera all night. And that goal? LORDY.
Next Game: Wednesday, November 5, 2014; 7:30pm vs. the New York Islanders back home in Anaheim