Final Score: Ducks 6, Flames 3
First Period Recap: The game began with the Calgary Flames looking to put themselves on the strong foot early, and their game plan was obvious right from the get-go: attack the Ducks shaky-possession defense and force them to make mistakes.
And they did exactly that. The Flames registered the first two scoring chances of the game, the most dangerous of which coming when Mikael Backlund got in behind Ben Lovejoy and Cam Fowler. Fowler however did just enough to interrupt Backlund's stickhandling and gave Lovejoy just enough room to prevent the Flames forward from getting much of a shot off at all on Ducks starter Frederik Andersen.
The Ducks however would be the first to strike, coming on the stick of Kyle Palmieri. The Flames failed to clear the puck past Palmieri at their own blue line, who threw the puck back towards the net and then broke to the opposite side of the slot. Matt Beleskey delayed his pass just enough to let Palmieri slip his mark and a seam opened up perfectly for Beleskey to slide the puck through. Palmieri simply had to hit a gaping net, and he did so with gusto. 1-0 Anaheim.
And the period would not get better for the Flames. They would earn both the game's first two power plays; the first coming when Andrew Cogliano broke the stick in Matt Stajan's hands, and the second coming when
Josh Jooris dropped his stick Matt Beleskey more-or-less tapped the stick out of Josh Jooris' hands.
The Flames failed to score on both despite getting themselves a few decent shots on goal, which Andersen stood tall to. And likewise it was Anaheim that had probably the best scoring chance out of both power plays when Nate Thompson found Ryan Getzlaf wide open streaking down the slot. Were it not from a confident-looking save from Joni Ortio, the Flames would have been down two less than 10 minutes into the game.
They were down two about five minutes after that mark, however. Ben Lovejoy let a wrist shot go that Patrick Maroon got a beautiful tip on to redirect the puck past a helpless Ortio. 2-0 Ducks.
Minutes later, Lovejoy got a tally of his own with yet another wrist shot deflection, this time off Flames defenseman Kris Russel and in. 3-0 Ducks.
The period mercifully ended there for the Flames, who despite outshooting the Ducks 10-8, trailed by three on the scoreboard.
Second Period Recap: The second period started almost equally well for Anaheim.
Despite some push-back from a scrappy Flames team and some early momentum loss due to a first-minute tripping minor to Corey Perry, the Ducks got the first goal of the frame just before the midway mark of the game when Tim Jackman ripped a wrister over the glove hand of Ortio off a pass from Rene Borque. 4-0 Ducks and that would spell the end of the night for Ortio, who gave way to former-Duck Jonas Hiller, playing against his former mates in his old barn for the second time.
At that point you could visibly see the Ducks lift their foot off the gas a tad, as you would expect a team up by four goals to do. (Note: I'm in no way justifying this.)
Then Calgary got their turn to push. Frederik Andresen stood tall to a good number of quality shots as the Flames began to pour on the pressure, particularly against the Anaheim defense who began to cough up a lot of pucks inside their own blue line.
And they finally got rewarded for the first time about two minutes after Jackman's goal. Lance Bouma barged his way almost effortlessly past a surprisingly-weak Francois Beauchemin and rushed the puck to the front of the net, and while his shot was saved, his rebound was landed right on the stick of Mikael Backlund who buried it quickly behind Andersen to cut the lead to 4-1.
The Flames kept pushing back and late in the period cut the lead down again. After Andersen made point blank saves on Brandon Bollig and Jiri Hudler on separate chances, Johnny Gaudreau pushed the Anaheim defense back and everyone lost sight of Sean Monahan who cut back to the high slot, where Gaudreau fed him and he ripped the puck past Andersen. 4-2.
That play was marred however by some controversy when a Duck had their stick knocked out of their hand on the opposite side of the rink, a play that was called a penalty earlier, but not this time. That resulted in the rush the other way, which the Ducks were not able to adequately defend due to one player missing their stick.
The period ended with the Flames out-chancing the Ducks 9-3, and outshooting their hosts 13-8 while cutting the lead in half. So yeah, you can understand if there was a bit of uneasiness here.
Third Period Recap: Bruce Boudreau did an excellent job rallying the troops and prepared his team well for what they were due to face in the third period: the league's best team in terms of goal differential over the final 20 minutes of each game.
The Ducks still gave up a few chances here and there, but for the most part limited Calgary's offensive push by picking off passes, blocking shots, and keeping as many pucks away from Frederik Andersen as they could. That being said, Freddie still had to make a few good ones.
Anaheim got a stellar chance of their own when Ryan Getzlaf found a streaking Patrick Maroon who tipped the puck barely off the outside of the glove of Jonas Hiller who kept it out. Maroon could easily have had a hat-trick in this period were it not for some downright rotten luck. Just minutes later, Maroon had another golden chance on the power play as the Flames defense left him all alone in front. Getzlaf found him and with nobody around him, Maroon ripped a shot on net that somehow found its way straight into Jonas Hiller's glove from point-blank range.
Kyle Palmieri thought he had scored on that same power play, but upon review of the play, the officials on the ice got the call right in that Palmieri had jammed Hiller's leg over the goal line in order to push the puck in, which is by letter of the law, illegal. No goal, right call.
The Ducks would solve Jonas Hiller, however, and it would be a role reversal as Corey Perry found Ryan Getzlaf in the slot, who let a laser go over Hiller's glove hand to stretch the lead to 5-2.
That lasted less than a minute. Lance Bouma tipped a pass from behind the net off the body of Frederik Andersen, and Joe Colborne was the first one to it, batting it out of midair past Frederik Andersen to once again cut the lead back to 5-3.
As the period started winding down though, Anaheim didn't go into its usual terrifying defensive "shell," but rather kept attacking. At one downright horribly unlucky point, Patrick Maroon and Corey Perry both hit a goalpost behind Jonas Hiller less than 40 seconds apart. But the Ducks kept attacking.
And that carried all the way through to the end of the game, where with just 19 seconds remaining Ryan Kesler sealed the game with a red-line shot into the empty net to re-extend the lead to 6-3.
The Anaheim Ducks extend their home win streak to 20 games over the Calgary Flames, push their own overall win streak to 5, extinguish the Flames 4 game win streak, and come away with their third multi-goal victory in their last four games.
The Good: The Ducks were opportunistic yet again and took advantage of a young goaltender whose hot streak came to a crashing halt. The Ducks got pucks to the net, jammed away at rebounds, and found seams in the Calgary defense like we know they're so good at doing when they're playing well. And I dare say for the last five games, they've been playing damn well.
The Bad: The Ducks defense still looks pretty susceptible to teams who can get on them and pressure them quickly. They seem like they're not fully sure what to do with the puck when they regain possession in their end and multiple times tonight they walked it into a corner where they turned it over, or tossed it away and turned it over. While this wasn't their worst game in terms of egregious erros, it was certainly not a great effort.
The Ugly: Going with the cop-out here but the officiating was wildly inconsistent in Anaheim tonight. Things that were called a penalty early in the first period were conspicuously let go for the remainder of the game, and the Flames got away with a pretty hefty amount of off-the-puck interference and hits before the puck had reached its target. Likewise, multiple times Anaheim had their sticks slashed into pieces or at least out of their hands and the officials let play continue, after Anaheim got nailed for it twice before the game was even 10 minutes old. It even indirectly cost Anaheim a goal, as it was a large factor on the Flames second tally.
3rd MVD: Kyle Palmieri was everywhere tonight. Not only did he open the scoring, but his speed was giving the Flames secondary defensemen fits, and his aggression almost got him a second goal on the night. Both he and Patrick Maroon could have had multi-goal nights, in Palmieri's case were it not for that pesky rule that you can't score by shoving the opposition goalie into the net.
2nd MVD: Ryan Getzlaf showed yet another example why he's getting faint rumblings of support for the Hart Trophy. Where Getzlaf goes, the Ducks team goes, and tonight he led by example, setting up countless plays, driving offense, and even scoring a goal like we know he's so capable--with a wicked wrister off the top shelf.
1st MVD: Frederik Andersen made 30 saves on 33 shots, including several gems from point-blank range. Oh, and did we mention he did all of it with the flu!?! Just imagine the sheer focus you need to be able to have in order to play goalie at the NHL level, and then imagine the strength you need to be able to burst and push yourself across the crease to keep the puck out. Now imagine trying to do all of that while playing severely dehydrated and getting IV injections in the locker room between periods. That my friends is a truly remarkable performance worthy of the highest of praises:
Now let's just hope he doesn't get the whole team sick.
Next Game: Tuesday, January 27th vs Vancouver Canucks. Enjoy your All-Star break everybody (especially you, Mr. Andersen)!