NHL.com did not have the entire highlight reel for the game, so I thought it be appropriate to end my recap with some final thoughts from Parks and Rec.
Final Score: Ducks 3, Flames 2
First Period Recap:
The opening minutes of the period was largely controlled by the quick and aggressive forecheck of the Flames. Calgary's crisp passing and the quick breakouts strikingly contrasted against the Ducks’ crappy passing and neutral zone turnovers. Some of the Ducks seemed to have forgotten the humiliation from the past meeting, but fortunately Hiller didn't. Despite the Flames buzzing around the net, Hiller made some key saves early on. Mike Cammalleri was arguably the largest threat for the Flames in the first period as he made several dangerous passes down to any open Flame in the low slot. Hiller was the difference maker as he stopped Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan and Paul Byron, all from those points close to the posts.
In addition to those opportunities, the Flames nearly had a breakaway early on when Teemu Selanne lost his stick. Fortunately Ryan Getzlaf hustled on the backcheck just in time to prevent a scoring opportunity. The Flames' best chances came from Hiller's initial save off Byron's shot. The young rookie Monahan waited down low near the left post and nearly had the first goal of the game if it were not for Nick Bonino, who swiftly poked the puck off Monahan’s stick.
Tim Jackman threw down Kevin Westgarth, but that’s about as exciting as it got for the next few minutes of traded play. Because Jackman was in the box, Corey Perry was given a double shift on a line along with Rickard Rakell and Bonino, which led to some extended play in their offensive zone and a couple chances.
The Ducks once again had trouble clearing their defensive zone. This would become a pattern throughout the entire night. When the Ducks finally cleared it down the ice, both teams skated to the bench to get a much-needed change...everyone but deceptively large Jackman...and Ladislav Smid who trailed after. Smid delivered a hard check along the boards, catching Jackman with his head down to give the Ducks the first power play of the game.
Patrick Maroon and Perry had some good chances in front of Ramo but would ultimately fail to meet their target. Finally, the seas parted for Bonino, all he needed was a small fake to turn T.J. Brodie and to rocket the puck right past Ramo.
So despite the period mostly being dominated by the home team, it was the Ducks in white that leave the first with the lead 1-0.
On an additional note, the Flames organization prepared a classy tribute to Teemu Selanne which was met by a standing ovation during the first television timeout. Good stuff.
Second Period Recap:
Bruce Boudreau must have worked his verbal magic on the Ducks because the team that entered the second period was completely different from that of the first. From the first shift, the Ducks kept the pressure up and had the one thought of just throwing pucks towards the Flames goaltender.
Perry streaked down the right side fighting off Mark Giordano to center a pass to Getzlaf in front of the net. Giordano attempted to stop Perry's centering feed but got called for the hook and on the delayed call stopped Gezlaf from scoring on a WIDE open net. The power play has just made an 180 degree turn in the past three games. Getzlaf, Mathieu Perrault, and Perry were absolutely lethal on the PP, keeping the puck in and making every second count...but Ramo was even better. Perry had the best chances with a centering pass from Maroon, but Lance Bouma prevented Perry's clean attempt. Despite the good looks, the Ducks only had two SOGs during the PP.
The Ducks dominated most of the second period's play, while creating the best scoring chances, but the Flames only needed two lucky bounces to even it up. It began with the Flames cycling along the boards and just out-hustling the Ducks to the loose pucks. Lovejoy outbattled Brian McGrattan down low for the puck, but unfortunately, the puck bounced along the wall over Patrick Maroon's stick and settled onto Smid's stick, who threw it from the blue line. The misfortune continued as the Flames got ANOTHER lucky bounce right off Matt Stajan AND ANOTHER off McGrattan into the net past Hiller. 1-1.
If not for the Calgary goaltender, the Ducks would have been up by multiple points. Perry received a lob pass rushing towards Calgary's end. With both the Flames and the Ducks making a change, Perry found Rakell rushing in alone fresh from the bench. With arguably the biggest save of the night, Ramo denied a wide open Rakell from regaining the lead.
Another golden opportunity occurred on the 4-on-4 play (coincidental roughing minors to Sami Vatanen and Westgarth) Bonino nearly had number two when his shot rang off the post and off Ramo's skate. The fourth line's forecheck nearly led to a wrap-around goal by Rakell. But even with his stick upside down in his hand, Ramo stymied the Ducks. Ramo was was the one thing that stood between the puck and the back of the net.
Despite the formidable pressure by the Ducks, they still performed poorly in their own defensive zone. Turnovers at the blue line allowed the Flames to regain some of the puck possession. Hampus Lindholm's turnover led to a neat 3-on-2 play but Lovejoy dove to take the puck away from Backlund. Another turnover allowed wide open McGrattan to take another shot at Hiller.
Remember what I said about the inability to clear the zone from the first period? It came back to haunt the Ducks in this second. The prolonged time on ice due to not getting to the loose pucks allowed the Flames to patiently tire out the Ducks. With Luca Sbisa caught way out of position and Hiller way in front of his net, Jiri Hudler was left with a wide open net to gain the Flame's first lead in the game in the last minute of the period. 1-2.
Third Period Recap:
The opening minutes of the the last period was uneventful as neither team had any chances in their respective offensive zones. Then the Flames began to regain the puck possession...once again, with their relentlessness. Meanwhile the Ducks looked tired and frankly lazy at times, watching the Flames win all the loose pucks. The Flames nearly increased the lead by two goals from a Curtis Glencross shot off of Stephane Robidas' block at the end of a long shift. There was still an entire third period left to be played and yet the Ducks were looking sloppy once again.
Then Maroon and Perrault hit the ice. Why was this a good thing? It began with Maroon battling for the puck along the boards...his forecheck gave Vatanen a nice hard shot at the blue line. Ramo blocked the shot with his blocker but the puck landed in the crease behind him. Smid's positioning prevented Ramo from reaching back before Perrault jammed the loose puck across the goal line. BACK IN THE GAME!
The tying goal brought some energy back into the Ducks' play as they attempt to generate some offense from the blue line.
The third period was played extremely tight by both teams as each looked for the window of opportunity to regain a lead. It was fun to see Robidas be the player that we Duck fans all came to hate--but now love, as he gave Bouma an extra shove or two, and a signature glare to boot.
The Flames pushed back to add some pressure on the Ducks defense, but ultimately failed to connect.
Andrew Cogliano...oh how I love thee Cogliano. The speed demon started the forecheck pressure by chasing after the puck to call off the icing. Jakob Silfverberg retrieved it and cleanly passed to Robidas for a one-timer at the blue line. Ramo kicked the rebound out to the side, but Cogliano circled back to position him perfectly to score on an open net. Ducks up 3-2!
There was still 5:19 left in regulation for the Ducks to defend their one goal lead. Byron nearly tied it up if not for Lovejoy's stick preventing a Flame from the rebound. The Ducks played the last few minutes rather dangerously as they once again failed to clear their defensive zone. Hiller made a huge blocker save with only 2:31 left. At 1:20, Ramo abandoned his net as the Flames went on the man-advantage. Surprise, surprise--the Flames beat the Ducks to all the loose pucks as the players in red crashed the net, looking for any window to tie the game up.
It was all Hiller in the dying moments of the period. He denied Cammalleri with 34 seconds left. And even as Saku Koivu headed towards the box on a hooking penalty, Hiller snatched the puck in his crease away from Backlund's backhand. The Ducks held the puck in the corner and killed off the last seconds of the game, taking away the much-needed two points, dignity intact.
The Good: The second period was an astounding improvement from the first. If Kari Ramo had not stood on his head, the Ducks would have run away with the game. And despite falling behind in the hard-worked second period, the Ducks came back to respond after every goal the Flames scored. The same had happened after the two goal scoring segment by the Florida Panthers--the Ducks came back and responded accordingly with improved passing and forecheck pressure. This was a good thing to see.
Oh, and that's three power play goals in three games. Booyah.
The Bad: Getzlaf didn't look so hot today. He was barely noticeable, much less the first line threat that most of the NHL has all grown to fear. He was hot last game against the Panthers, so I'm not too worried that this will be a consistent problem. But come playoffs, the Ducks will be depending on Getzlaf and the top line to make the largest impact.
The Ugly: The play in the Ducks' defensive was ugly and sloppy. Blame it on the young 'uns if you want, but it was just all around terrible. The Ducks were clearly outskated along the center of the ice, and outplayed along the boards. Bad passes, watching loose pucks, poor backchecking....Once again, unwise pinches gave the opponents great odd-man rush opportunities. Even at the very end with the Flames taking the empty net man-advantage, the Ducks were absolutely horrible in clearing the front of the net or the puck from the zone. More than once Hiller was left to defend the area around the goal himself. More than one Duck owes Hiller a case of beer.
Next Game: vs. Edmonton Oilers, Friday, March 28th 6:30PM PST, at Rexall Place