Final Score: Ducks 2, Sharks 3
First Period Recap:
In the opening minutes of the first period, neither team was able to start anything in their offensive zone. It seemed like both teams were feeling each other out--opted to play a very safe and defensive game. Both teams chipped pucks off the glass, taking extreme care to clear the zone.
One of the closest chances Anaheim had in the first came from a Honda-Center-like bounce after the Ducks dumped it in. The puck bounced its way right to an alert Antti Niemi hugging his post.
After that, the Ducks had very few scoring chances. Corey Perry dropped a pass for Ryan Getzlaf, who patiently drew in the Sharks and passed it along to Francois Beauchemin who was wide open at the right circle. Beauchemin had a lot of time to take a shot, but Niemi was up to the task and easily gloved it. That was the extent of the effectiveness of the first line in the first period. For the most part, Getzlaf was harmless and Teemu Selanne literally just floated around. The Sharks also had few scoring chances on Andersen. From behind the net, Joe Thornton passed to a wide open Joe Pavelski who went wide of the net. Remember that play, because it comes back to haunt the Ducks.
The only line that looked dangerous against the Sharks was the fourth line of Tim Jackman-Rickard Rakell-Emerson Etem. The chemistry between the two Norfolk Admiral players was clear every time they entered the offensive zone. A Robidas breakout gave Emerson Etem a nice centering opportunity from behind the net for Rickard Rakell. That line looked by far the most dynamic against the solid defensive play of the Sharks during the first.
The players, the coaches, the fans--all knew that coming into this Pacific showdown, special teams would play a large part. And despite top standings, both teams have notably struggled with their respective power plays. When you put two top teams with crappy special teams, something's gotta give. And it all began with AC's favorite whipping boy, (and deservedly so) Luca Sbisa. He nicely crushed Tommy Wingels into the boards, but followed up with an additional STUPID shot at the Shark. With their % PP unit, the Sharks got the game's first man-advantage. The Sharks soon closed in on Andersen. After some passing between Thornton and Pavelski, Thornton took his time behind the goal and found a wide open Patrick Marleau at the left circle. Marleau didn't waste a minute shooting the puck, which hit under the crossbar and off Andersen's shoulder into the net. That gawd damn PK. AND THAT GAWD DAMN SBISA. Sharks up 1.
After a rare power play goal, the Sharks looked like they were gaining some ground on the Ducks. But the first period would end on a pretty even note. Sharks ended the period with 6 SOGs while the Ducks had 4 SOG, each having 2 scoring chances, and a 11-10 face-offs respectively. It was a very conservative and tight first period.
On an additional note, the San Jose Sharks saluted Teemu Selanne, the one-time Shark, during one of the TV breaks. This was his last regular season game played at the Shark Tank.
Second Period Recap: The Sharks came out with a little more energy as they challenged Andersen a couple times in front of the net. It also didn't help that the Ducks' clean and careful play ended along with the first period, as they continuously turned over over the puck in their own end.
Both the Ducks and the Sharks traded some pretty good chances throughout the second period as the intensity noticeably increased. And both teams' goaltenders made some key saves to keep anyone from scoring. The Sharks nearly increased the lead if not for a certain ginger in net. Thornton gave the most marvelous aerial pass over Bryan Allen, right to Brent Burns' stick for a breakaway. But Andersen was there to stop that one in it's tracks. Marleau also had an opportunity on a 2-on-1 breakaway but shot wide of the net. Down at the other end, Etem's shot resulted in a near goal with Jackman and Rakell looking to chip in the bouncing puck. Catching the Sharks on a change, Perry found Maroon wide open, but the bouncing puck could not be settled.
The Ducks finally got a crack at their first power play of the night when Selanne was tripped by Justin Braun. During the opening minutes, the Ducks looked much improved in their aggressiveness as they simply shot pucks towards the net. Getzlaf started by shooting from point as the Ducks PP unit looked to set screens and cash in on rebounds. Just as the dying minutes of the first power play came seemed to be of no avail, Selanne drew another penalty call when Vlasic was called for interference. Just as the few seconds of the 5-on-3 expired, Perry patiently found his way towards the middle and shot at Niemi. Though Niemi made the initial save, Mathieu Perrault was positioned perfectly to cash in on the rebound. Ducks tied it 1-1, both points coming from power plays by the two teams that suck at them.
Sbisa nearly cost the Ducks another goal when a neutral zone turnover led to a 2 man break. Luckily, Shepphard didn't realize he had Wingels next to him and took the shot, which Anderson had no problem saving.
With about 40 seconds left in the second period, Bryan Allen was called for hooking Joe Pavelski. While the Sharks kept the puck in their offensive zone, the Ducks desperately blocked and finally cleared to keep the score even by the end of the second.
Third Period Recap: With 1:21 left on Allen's penalty, the Ducks began the period shorthanded. But the Ducks came on this PK with much missed aggression and pressure, and easily killed it.
Not long after, the Southern California hockey club rallied back by taking it's first lead during the game. Selanne's forecheck forced the puck up the boards right to Getzlaf who found Perry streaking towards the middle. Boy Genius Corey Perry, proved that not only could he fix screens and steal sticks, but he could also kick a small rubber disc like a soccer ball and then reassert his control over it with his hockey stick. Perry threw it towards a net screened by Selanne. GOAL! Initially the goal was given to Perry, but upon further review, it was discovered that the Finnish Flash got a piece of the puck and tipped it in. The Great 8 with 8 now this season.
But soon after, the Ducks were left shorthanded once again when Perrault slashed Brent Burns. The first thing I noticed about this PK was the fact that the Ducks did not allow a Shark to set up behind the net. After numerous failed PKs, the Ducks finally figured that out. The Ducks worked hard to chase after the puck behind the net, forcing it up along the boards. After passing along the perimeter, the Sharks brought madness to the crease and so nearly tied it up, if it were not for former-Shark Daniel Winnik. Couture's shot passed under a sprawling Andersen's pads but Winnik came down and fished the puck off the line.
After the close call, the Sharks furiously threw all pucks towards Andersen, who continued to come up with some solid saves. Pavelski played the puck off the boards passed Getzlaf and Robidas into the neutral zone, where a streaking Burns was there to receive the pass. Allen was alone facing the 2-on-1 by Burns and Thornton. While Andersen made the initial save on Burns, Thornton was there to tie it up the game.
The Ducks nearly had a heart attack when Perry was badly shaken up by Burn's hit. After a slight scuffle, Perry sat down and soon resumed play. Come on, it's Corey F***ing Perry.
Towards the end of the period, play escalated quickly. Selanne picked up a loose puck in the Sharks' zone and nearly sniped it if not for Demers' skate. Not soon after, the Ducks nearly had a lucky bounce when the puck ricocheted off some Sharks, landed on top of the net, and seemingly bounced into the goal. The puck seemed to have crossed the line. But the ref had already blown the play dead, calling it a high stick on Perry. The call was not reviewable and the Ducks were left empty-handed.
The bad would continue to get worse as the end drew near. With less than 4 minutes left, Burns threw a shot that glanced off Andersen into the boards. Looking up, Thornton took the puck and passed it towards Burns who deflected it passed Anderson.
With an empty net and the man-advantage, the Ducks desperately pressured the Sharks and threw everything they had at the Sharks' net. Despite the close connections between Getzlaf and Selanne, no dice. The night ended short one goal and the question of "What if" on the dead play call in every Duck fans' mind....
The Good: Finally, the Ducks scored that ever-elusive power play goal! I can't remember when we scored the last one. Oh yeah, it was before the Olympic Break. May this only bring good tidings on future power plays. The two power plays actually looked decent. Off the bat, the Ducks didn't waste their time passing aimlessly as they usually do. Instead, Getzlaf took the point shots and all the Ducks crashed the net to look to cash in on the loose rebound. By the second power play, Mathieu Perrault was awarded his PPG that had been changed last game against the Caps.
The Bad: This could easily be inserted into the "Ugly" portion...so consider it Part A of The Ugly moreso than The Bad. The odd-man rushes by San Jose were absolutely detrimental to the Ducks' game, one of them leading to the tying point. The Ducks were caught out of position and the defense was unable to get back in time to help out Andersen. Bad pinches and irresponsible play gave the Sharks a couple of great scoring opportunities. If it were not for Andersen standing on his head at times, the Ducks' loss would have been much more severe than a one goal loss.
The Ugly: I've had to split this one to Part B and Part C...
B) The first penalty was such a bad penalty to take. Damn you Sbisa. But then again, damn our sh**ty PK unit.
The first penalty kill was awful. From it's inception with Sbisa taking the stupid penalty, to passively allowing the Sharks to close in around the goal....It was bad. Ever notice that the Ducks seem to get scored against on the PK when they allow the opposing team to chill out behind the net? And again, that left circle was left wide open. Last game it was with Ovechkin, and this game it was with Marleau. Pretty sure all the teams facing the Ducks have that left circle bolded and highlighted on their power play board. Teams are said to be able to win the Stanley without a great PP..but they cannot win without a great PK. The Ducks have now given up a power-play score in each of the past 7 games. Bad is an understatement.
C) The ref that blew his gawd damn whistle too early....Yes, he supposedly blew the whistle early because of Corey Perry's high stick. That being said, it was just ugly seeing as that could have been a good goal. It's a shame that there could not be a review of the play or goal. That play whistled dead was the game-changer. That goal that was called off may very well be the goal that cost us the Pacific. Up until before the game, the Ducks and Sharks were tied for first with the Ducks having one game on hand. But considering that the Ducks are on a downward spiral at the end of the regular season and Sharks are as hot as ever, the Pacific may very well have been lost tonight--Lost because that goal didn't count....Maybe I'm being overdramatic here....There are still 12 games to be played right? *smh* But as a Duck fan, I reserve my right for bring pissed and just shower the blame on that ref. F*** you ref, f*** you.
3rd Icehole: The ref and his early-blown whistle. Really? High stick? While none of us can say with absolute certainty whether that that puck crossed the line, this call was very unfortunate. Definitely one of those plays that many of us will argue was blown off too early. Cue the "What if" speculations.
2nd Icehole: Luca Sbisa. Why oh why did you have to take that extra shot on Tommy Wingels. Yeah, we get it...you want to assert your grittiness and contribute in that way to the club. But why do you have to do it in such a stupid way? Not to mention your sh**ty turnovers that led to more scoring chances for San Jose. I take back all my "I guess I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for his recent play." Yeah right. Welcome back to being AC's whipping boy Sbeez.
Anaheim, pray for Cam Fowler.
1st Icehole: Joe Thornton was an absolutely beast tonight. He was everywhere and on every single dangerous play. His passes were absolutely dead-on and created numerous chances for the Sharks. He had two assists and one goal tonight.
Next Game: Sunday, March 23, 5:00PM PST, vs Florida Panthers, back at the Honda Center