Final Score: Sharks 6, Ducks 3
After weathering a little bit of a storm at the start of the game, the Ducks kept the home team pinned in their end for a few minutes. After forcing turnovers and a couple icing calls from the Sharks, the pressure paid off as ironman Andrew Cogliano recovered his own doorstop redirection attempt from Rickard Rakell and tucked the puck into the top corner past a helpless Antti Niemi. There were two bummers about that goal: one, a lot of fans hadn't even made it to their seats yet to catch it, and two, (SPOILER ALERT) this was as good as things would get for the Ducks tonight, not even five minutes into the game. Ducks 1, Sharks 0
In a bit of role reversal within the animal kingdom, the Ducks could smell blood and continued to attack the Sharks. The team's momentum was halted, however, as Kyle Palmieri was kind enough to give Brandon Dillon a face-full of stick, earning a couple of minutes in the box. One of the biggest mismatches in this series this season has been special teams, as San Jose's power play unit has been much more effective than Anaheim's penalty kill. With enough patience, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau set up a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play that culminated in Joe Pavelski pounding the puck home. Bryzgalov had absolutely no chance against such fluid execution, and once again, we have a tie game. Ducks 1, Sharks 1
After some back and forth hockey, Ryan Getzlaf decided to sauce the puck across the width of the ice, and Matt Nieto, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, took some hard rubber to the face. Chants that sounded like "let's go Ducks" and "let's go Sharks" began to compete with each other right before Andrew Desjardins tried to take Hampus Lindholm's knee out. Francois Beauchemin wasn't a fan of such a play, and he engaged Desjardins in an anticlimactic fist fight before both parties, along with Tomas Hertl who was serving the kneeing penalty to Desjardins, were sent off to the sin bin. A few chances on top of the crease by the Twins came up short, and the Ducks' power play began the night 0-for-1.
Shortly after returning to even strength, a Cam Fowler turnover in the defensive end led to a very dangerous chance by the Sharks that Ben Lovejoy had no choice to break up by tripping James Sheppard. The penalty kill's effort was much improved throughout San Jose's second power play opportunity of the night, as evidenced by the fact that the best scoring chance of those two minutes came from Cogliano.
The period ended with the visitors coming at Niemi in waves over the last minute or two, but they could not break through the defense. 1-1 at the end of one, with the Ducks leading the shot count 14-9.
Neither team came out of the locker room with any particular advantage over the other, but one mistake can change that neutral situation rather drastically. Barclay Goodrow caught Hampus Lindholm overcomitting to a loose puck and chipped it around him, leaving the Shark all alone with Bryzgalov. Beauchemin couldn't get over to break up the play quick enough, and Goodrow tucked the puck through Bryz's wickets, giving San Jose their first lead of the game just over two minutes into the period. Sharks 2, Ducks 1
Just as the NBCSN commentators began to talk about how the Ducks have been pinning the Sharks in their own zone for a few stretches of time, the good guys went and did it again. Ryan Kesler had a solid chance to pot a rebound off Niemi's pad as he was crashing the net, but the San Jose goalie got just enough of his glove on the puck to send it above the crossbar. Very shortly after, the guy who almost scored the equalizer was on his way to the penalty box after hooking Pavelski, sending the dangerous Shark power play out for their third run of the night. Although the Ducks killed off the Kesler minor, San Jose continued to apply pressure as though they were still a man up. While the Sharks were still riding that momentum, Brent Burns teed up a shot from the blue line that Patrick Marleau got enough of a stick on to redirect inside the left post and past a stunned Bryzgalov. Sharks 3, Ducks 1
After going down by two to a re-energized Shark team, the last thing that Anaheim needed was another penalty, but alas, Sami Vatanen took an interference call almost immediately after the last goal, and San Jose's power play crew immediately went back to work. A poor decision by Brent Burns resulted in a turnover to Getzlaf, who set up Cogliano on a breakaway. The speedster was looking for his second goal of the night and some resurgence on the Duck bench, but Niemi shut down the five-hole to keep the two-goal lead intact.
Anaheim had been doing a great job of keeping a hand on San Jose's throat throughout the game, regardless of whether they just scored a goal or their opposition got one. After the third goal from the teal and black, however, the Ducks began to get bullied all across the ice. The Sharks were commanding the game at this point, and they dug their guests' grave a little deeper when Logan Couture found a wide (read: WIIIIIIDE) open Matt Irwin who had the entire high slot to himself. With prime real estate and four bodies parked in front of Bryz, the Shark defenseman didn't have a hard time tucking the puck into the top right corner, and as the story goes in San Jose too many times, the rout was officially on. Sharks 4, Ducks 1
After falling into a three-goal hole, Bruce Boudreau decided to call a timeout to rally his troops, and by the looks of the events that followed, whatever he said was completely ineffective. Just two minutes after the last goal, the Sharks found themselves on yet another odd-man rush, and James Sheppard ended up with the puck on his stick and enough breathing room to put home the fourth goal of the second period for his team. Sharks 5, Ducks 1
Anaheim went on the power play after John Scott got called for roughing Matt Beleskey, so the Ducks had a chance to earn back a shred of hope that they could come back, but just when you'd think this game couldn't get any worse, it found a way to. What seemed to be an accurate summation to how the game had been going, Brenden Dillon and Matt Nieto found themselves on a two-on-one shorthanded opportunity. Dillon attempted to pass the puck across the crease, but Beleskey dove into the passing lane to break up the play. A good idea in theory, but of course, since it was one of those nights for the Ducks, he ended up redirecting the puck past an over-committed Bryz instead, giving Dillon credit for the goal. Mr. Universe's night mercifully came to an end, and Frederik Andersen, who was supposed to be fresh for the game against Chicago, had to take over in the crease. Sharks 6, Ducks 1
Not much else to say about the middle 20 minutes, but they say a picture says a thousand words, so I'll just leave this here.
Sharks held a 26-23 shot advantage after 40, and a goal advantage that... wasn't too pretty.
To put it bluntly, the Ducks needed a miracle to have any chance to win this game. They needed to start the scoring early, and lo and behold, they did. After Kesler tried to jam the puck under Niemi's pads, a streaking Matt Beleskey took a chip at the ensuing rebound that took a high arc above the Shark goal before ricocheting off Niemi's back and into the net. Comeback kids? Sharks 6, Ducks 2
By the looks of things, the Sharks were perfectly content with sitting on their heels and trusting that a four-goal lead would be safe for 18 minutes. Although the Ducks were looking better than they did in the second (which isn't saying much at all), goals were a frequent necessity, and any time a Shark stick knocked the puck loose from an Anaheim player, precious seconds were ticking off the clock. It didn't help matters much when Patrick Maroon got caught cross-checking Tye McGinn, effectively erasing two more minutes that his team so desperately needed.
After a while, it seemed like the Ducks resigned themselves to their fate. Five goals in 20 minutes was a tall order, but you never want to see your team lie down at the end of the game, regardless of the score. San Jose continued to pepper Andersen with good chances, while Anaheim struggled to get anything going. With about a minute left in the game though, which was all but over, Lindholm hit Maroon with a cross-ice pass in the Sharks zone, and the Big Dog picked the high glove side corner on Niemi's, scoring a goal that served no other purpose than stat padding at this point. Sharks 6, Ducks 3
Without a doubt a game to forget, the Ducks ended up taking another loss in Northern California while getting outshot 33-28.
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The Good: Andrew Cogliano. Seemingly the lone ray of light in an awfully dark night, Cogs earned a goal early in the game, which have been hard to come by for him this season, and had two more solid chances, both shorthanded. #7 seemed to be the guy who wanted it the most tonight among a team that appeared to played either really lethargic or just complacent.
The Bad: The one-sidedness of this rivalry. The Ducks' inability to win a game in San Jose plus a 1-4-0 season record with a -10 aggregate goal differential is exactly why I really don't want to see this team in the playoffs. For those of you that want to reference the Ducks' regular season dominance of the Kings last year compared to what happened in the postseason, or the playoff tendencies of the Kings compared to the Sharks, I understand where you're coming from, but Ducks/Kings games have almost always been one goal games lately, as opposed to Ducks/Sharks games, where this team is getting blown out on a relatively consistent basis. I won't say we can relate to Flames fans with the Disneyland Curse just yet, but against a team that we see five times a year, this losing streak up north can't be allowed to continue.
The Ugly: The defense. I shouldn't really have to elaborate on this, but in the second period, the difference between the Ducks' defensive effort and a breakaway was that the Sharks had the potential to utilize stationary screens in front of Bryz, most notably seen via Shark goal #4. As you guys and girls may have noticed, I'm pretty partial to goalies, since I am one, but this loss was absolutely not Bryz's fault tonight. When you give players as much time and open ice that the defense gave the Sharks tonight, not too many NHL-caliber guys are going to miss those silver platter opportunities, no matter who's standing in the blue paint. Could that five-hole have been locked down better on a few of those goals? Absolutely. But to pin the majority of responsibility of this loss on our goalie is asinine when the guys in front of him didn't give him much help whatsoever for the duration of the entire 20 minutes of the middle period.
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3rd Icehole: Antti Niemi. The Ducks just can't seem to solve this guy. Now with a .929 save percentage and a shutout against Anaheim this season, the Finnish tendy is a useful ace in the hole for our rivals. Even on those nights that the San Jose offense can't get the ball rolling, Nemo always seems to have his best games against the Ducks, as he has a tendency to stymie the Anaheim offense to grind out low scoring wins (or at least a point) for his team. He always gives this team fits and I, for one, am getting sick of him being good in this series.
2nd Icehole: Special teams. On the one hand, the penalty kill unit kept the league's 7th ranked power play 1 for 5 on the night, but on the flip side, the San Jose penalty kill went 50% on power plays that WEREN'T EVEN THEIRS. Anytime your power play gets outscored by the other team's penalty killing unit is a bad night, but as most of us are aware, this is a facet of the game that really needs to be addressed for this Anaheim club. If both special team units don't get things straightened out, we'll likely be looking back on the season in the offseason and acknowledge that this was one of the main reasons that the Ducks ended up bowing up in the second round again.
1st Icehole: Defensive corps, again. See "the ugly" above for explanation.
Next Game: Friday, January 30, 7:00 PM, vs. Chicago Blackhawks