Final Score: Ducks 2, Canadiens 1
First Period Recap:
After a beautiful ceremony honoring Saku Koivu, long time Montreal captain who played his final few seasons in Anaheim, the puck would drop in a game that was unlike many others this season.
When you matchup a team that is seeking redemption after a disgusting loss such as Anaheim, with a team that plays a naturally quicker game like Montreal, you know that it will be exciting. Well, the first period definitely didn't let me down in the thrill category. So many close calls, near goals, big saves, and strange bounces.
Frederik Andersen was given the nod to guard the net opposite Montreal goaltender Carey Price. Freddie didn't look as spectacular as he has previously, but he definitely got the job done and obviously has found a way to bounce back after that brutal beating in Toronto. Freddie succeeded in stopping all nine shots that the Canadiens threw his way in the opening period. Anaheim controlled a lot of the period, using their size advantage to win battles for pucks and in many cases flat out muscle their opponents off the puck.
The Ducks were able to trap the Canadiens in their defensive zone, and with two clearing attempts ending up as icing calls the fourth line of the Montreal troops was gassed. Montreal coach Michel Therrien utilized his only timeout after the second icing call, but with fresh Anaheim troops hitting the ice it was only a matter of time. Hampus Lindholm hit net behind Price with a beautiful wrist shot just over eight minutes into the period. Getzlaf would draw the lone assist on the only goal in the first period.
Montreal seemed a bit disheartened, understandably so, after only getting one shot on Andersen in the first nine minutes of the period. However a slashing penalty called against Rene Bourque was enough to lift his former team's spirits, and even though they did trail by a goal after the first 20 minutes of play they did seem to wake up a bit, ending the period trailing in shots 11-9, an impressively close margin after trailing 8-1 in shots earlier in the period.
Andersen had some timely saves; some skillful, others lucky, but he gave his team a chance to win by keeping pucks out of the net. A fast-paced first ended with Anaheim leading 1-0 on the scoreboard, despite Montreal posting an impressive 11 blocked shots.
Second Period Recap:
The middle frame looked uncharacteristic for the Anaheim Ducks, who are notoriously dangerous in most second periods. Yet for some unknown cosmic reason that was not truthful for tonight's matchup.
It felt like a new game began when the puck dropped in the second compared to the puck drop in the first period. Anaheim looked careless, and couldn't get a shot on goal until over 11 minutes into the period. Montreal managed to carry over momentum that they began building toward the end of the first period and Anaheim looked like they had fallen back on their heels and couldn't catch up.
Through the first, Anaheim was contesting Montreal every time they attempted to cross into the neutral zone or into the Ducks' defensive zone, yet the second period saw very little traces of this. On the flip side Montreal, who never even attempted to stop Anaheim from entering their zone in the first, seemed to grow a few inches and contest each time a Duck player attempted to cross either blue line toward Price.
The second period was not a pretty one, with Anaheim falling into old habits with horrible passes that couldn't connect and lazy attempts of keeping the puck away from netminder Andersen. Montreal posted an impressive 12 shots on goal, while Anaheim struggled to even get the seven shots they ended the period with.
Anaheim stayed ahead 1-0 through the scoreless second period, however it wasn't necessarily well-deserved. There was some lucky bounces that went in favor of Anaheim and an ugly save from Andersen that completely robbed Brendan Gallagher of the game-tying goal.
Needless to say, this period is one I hope to soon forget and never relive.
Third Period Recap:
The third period was a bit of an anomaly in the overall fabric of this game in Montreal. In the first two periods there was a total of one power play (there were two coincidental minor penalties in the second, however neither team was given a man advantage), yet in the third period alone there were five power plays and three gave Anaheim the extra man.
Just shy of four minutes into the third period Clayton Stoner bulldozed Max Pacioretty while the Canadien was admiring his pass a second too long. Pacioretty, who was a few feet from the boards at the time of contact, fell hard into the boards and could not get up without assistance. He would not return to the game after being escorted into the locker room. Considering the hit was not late and Stoner did not leave his feet there was no penalty called on the play, much to the dismay of Montreal fans.
Shortly thereafter the game began to unravel. Patrick Maroon was called for a soft and highly debatable interference call that looked more like coincidental contact and gave Montreal a chance, which they didn't pass up. David Desharnais scored on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Andrei Markov that hit the net behind Freddie. An extra assist should have been tacked on for P.K. Subban, who took Anaheim penalty killer Sami Vatanen out of the play with a clear and deliberate trip that sent the defender to the ice, keeping him out of position and giving the Canadiens an even better chance.
The refs made a few more questionable calls, but then the zebras did one big thing right. They let Clayton Stoner answer for his actions. Stoner and Prust dropped the gloves and settled tensions that had been simmering since Stoner's hit sent Pacioretty to the locker room.
Shortly before the fight broke out, Matt Beleskey scored an even-strength goal that I am still baffled by. Devante Smith-Pelly and Rickard Rakell fought hard to maintain possession deep in the Montreal zone, and somehow, Rakell guarded the puck and fed a pass that Beleskey lobbed into the top corner behind Price. I'll admit it, my jaw hit the floor and I found myself asking how the hell Beleskey did that. Ducks fans: meet your team's leading goal-scorer. The one and only, resident badass, Matt Beleskey.
The Good - Size Advantage Used: Whenever Anaheim plays a team that is largely smaller in stature, such as the Montreal Canadiens, normally the Ducks get outplayed because they fall into the trap of playing their opponent's style of game. Montreal prefers a fast-paced, quicker hockey game, while Anaheim tends to play a more aggressive playing style that caters to the big bodies on the Ducks' roster. Anaheim stood strong and continued to play their preferred style of hockey, muscling opponents off of the pucks and winning battles on the forecheck and backcheck both. It was the determination and strength of Smith-Pelly, Rakell, and Beleskey, which made the eventual game-winning goal possible.
The Bad - Powerplay Failures: Anaheim had three chances with the man advantage to widen the scoring gap in the game versus Montreal, however the Ducks didn't even register a single powerplay shot on goal. I will admit that the statistic that reveals that the Canadiens blocked 23 shots in the game makes me hope that several of those were when the Ducks were on the powerplay, however Anaheim still could not get any sort of offensive chance generated when they had the extra man. Beleskey's goal was scored just after the penalty to Subban had expired, however before the charge that ended with that goal, there was very little offensive pressure registering despite being on the better end of a 5-on-4 situation.
The Ugly - Entire Third Period: I should preface this section by admitting that I hate when referees make soft calls to make up for calls that they should have made previously. Montreal's coach and fans made such a stink about the no-call after Stoner's hit on Pacioretty that the officials attempted to compensate by punishing Maroon for two minutes on a weak and highly debatable call. When Montreal realized they could influence the refs, the players began taking some hearty runs at any Duck player they could line up for a hard check. Once Bruce Boudreau was able to also air his concerns to the refs, the zebras made up for it with a soft call on Montreal's Subban. The entire period was a juggling act, attempting to figure out what the refs would or would not call, however the inconsistencies in the calls made it a very difficult line to find. So with that I have digitally vocalized my own issues, and feel better.
Next Game: Friday, December 19, 4:30pm PST at Ottawa Senators