Final Score: Ducks 2 - Hurricanes 1
Chart courtesy www.war-on-ice.com
For much of the opening frame the Hurricanes controlled possession and while unable to get many A-grade opportunities on Ducks starter John Gibson, they effectively kept Anaheim from spending much of any time on the attack. Just over four minutes into the period Victor Rask let a shot go from the far point that Gibson had trouble corralling, but Francois Beauchemin shoved a lurking Tim Gleason past the rebound allowing a cover. The first opportunity the Ducks create came a couple minutes later, when Nate Thompson created a turnover off a stick lift and broke free up the far wing. His initial shot was denied by Cam Ward at the post, and a follwing Jakob Silfverberg shoveled the rebound attempt well wide to the opposite corner.
Carolina continued to drive the play, but on occasion allowed brief spurts from Anaheim. One such chance came with Tim Jackman powering again up the far left wing, but in cutting to the net lost the puck in front of Ward and was forced to go diving over top of the Hurricane goalie. The Ducks caught a break when a Corey Perry turnover allowed Eric Staal to create and odd man opportunity, cutting in from the near wing and attempting to feed the puck across the slot to Jordan Staal but had it momentarily broken up by Ben Lovejoy. The trailing third man Jiri Tlusty picked the puck up and in one motion snapped a shot that rang high off the post to Gibson's blocker side.
The speed of Nathan Gerbe created a chance just over three minutes before the horn when he was able to bolt underneath the reach of Clayton Stoner and shovel the puck to the net front where Gibson denied. Anaheim was called for the first penalty of the game when Ryan Kesler went in strong on the forecheck on John-Michael Liles, lifting the Hurricane defender's stick but getting his own up around Liles' hands to be whistled for a hooking minor as he created a chance on net. Carolina held the puck in the attack zone for the majority of their power play, firing off three shots before the Ducks could clear after Gibson made a reaching glove save off a Rask shot from the circle. The penalty kill was successful, but at the end of the first period the hosts held a healthy 14-5 shot advantage, five of which came off the stick of Rask, and had out-attempted Anaheim by a 21-10 margin at five-on-five.
Just over a minute into the period Ward very nearly gifted the Ducks the opening marker by mishandling the puck in the trapezoid with Perry in on the forecheck, losing the puck and allowing Perry to attempt to center the puck or get a deflection off his feet as he returned to the crease. The puck skittered wide, and from there Carolina would continue to push the play. Anaheim's first official shot on goal wouldn't come until the 14:10 mark when Kyle Palmieri attempted a sweeping backhand wraparound move from behind the net while stumbling that Ward was able to seal off at the far post.
Nearing the halfway mark the Hurricanes had their most dangerous even strength flurry as Gibson made the save on a Jeff Skinner shot, and the puck rattled behind the net to Rask. He attempted to wrap it around near post but was met by Hampus Lindholm blocking the opportunity, though Carolina retained possession and continued to press. Another shot created a rebound to the right of the wide open net that forced Lindholm to trip Rask. With Anaheim struggling to clear the puck the Canes ramped up the pressure with the extra man, finally getting the breakthrough when the Ducks penalty killers lost their shape and allowed a cross high slot pass to Skinner, who ripped a wrister that rebounded knuckling off the blocker and into the net to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.
Some three minutes after the goal Jackman was able to goad Gleason into a fight, and thereafter Bruce Boudreau put the lines in the blender by separating Perry from Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf skated with Silfverberg on his right wing while Perry linked up with Rickard Rakell. After Gibson made a point blank save on Tlusty following a feed from behind the net by Eric Staal the Ducks would snatch one against the run of play. Perry shrugged off the defense of Brett Bellemore to work the puck in front that Ward initially denied, but with Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey crashing Beleskey chopped the rebound off Beauchemin's stick to tied the game 1-1. Almost three minutes later Ward whiffed on a sweeping poke check attempt on Palmieri behind the net, only to have the puck come out front to Rask who mishandled it and allowed Beleskey to swat the puck home and give the Ducks a 2-1 lead 2:30 before intermission.
Despite a 29-13 shots on goal disadvantage through two, the Ducks held the edge going into the final regulation stanza. The first several minutes passed sleepily by, with the only real major flurry of amusement coming when the Carolina DJ played Pennywise's "Bro Hymn", lighting up Twitter. Five minutes in Devante Smith-Pelly created an odd man chance following a turnover, but his attempted pass across the middle was denied by a late recovering Justin Faulk. Anaheim got their only power play opportunity of the game when Getzlaf won a puck battle in the far corner of the offensive zone and took a stick up high from Bellemore before getting a chance on net. On the ensuing advantage Beleskey clanked the pipe all alone in the high slot with a snap shot to the low glove side, and Cam Fowler missed on the rebound as the best chance on a fruitless power play.
Unlike the opening periods Anaheim battened down the hatches defensively, doing a much better job of blocking the shooting lanes and preventing pucks from making their way to Gibson. Lindholm (5) and Lovejoy (4) lead the team in blocked shots, and Stoner made a nice play standing up against an attempted bull rush by Eric Staal and forcing the puck to the corner. Stoner would later catch a stick to the mouth behind the net that went unpenalized, opening a sizable cut on the defender's chops forcing him to miss a few shifts.
Eric Staal had a chance off a Beauchemin giveaway from the near face off dot with just over four minute remaining, but Gibson was out on the edge of his crease and square to absorb the shot. The Hurricanes tried to ramp things back up, pulling the goalie with 1:35 remaining and getting a power play when Kesler was called for hooking penalty after he and Smith-Pelly muscled the puck out of the defensive zone up the far wall. A brief touch of the gloves with the stick parallel while trying to dispossess Faulk lead to the infraction, but the Hurricanes couldn't get a quality chance. Getzlaf won a late face off that allowed Sami Vatanen to hammer the puck around the boards and out of the zone to secure the 2-1 Ducks win. Anaheim did well to limit the shots on goal in the period, surrendering just seven while managing four of their own.
Good: With the Ducks coming slow out of the gate they needed Gibson to be sharp early, and that he was. While Carolina never generated high quality chances, they had plenty of good looks that the Ducks netminder was equal to early on. The only goal he gave up came on an odd-man situation with the penalty killers out of formation and scrambling, and even at that still managed to get a piece of it.
Bad: Once again the offense was slow out of the gate, managing just five shots in the first period and not really challenging Ward until the second half of the second period. It was an unfortunate trend for the road trip after opener at Nashville, and something that harkens back to recent seasons where the team has been notoriously slow starting as the schedule wears on.
Ugly: While this generally is for the most cringe-worthy points of Ducks play, this time we'll use it as a loving descriptor for both of the Ducks goals. No brilliant deflections or pretty weaving pass plays like at Honda Center, tonight was all about getting to the net and finding a way to whack and hack the puck in on a pair of plays. It's the kind of play that's was in short supply for much of the road trip, but ended up being rewarded and helped Anaheim come away with two points they probably didn't deserve.
3rd MVD: Clayton Stoner. Wait, what?! Believe it or not Stoner was the Ducks best skater, let alone defenseman, in terms of both shot attempt (+8) and unblocked shot attempt differential (+7) when he was on the ice at even strength. There was none of the risky lay-out poke checks on his stomach that got burned in recent games, but instead a physical presence to help deal with Staal. That he took a high stick to the chops late in the third and returned to help close the game out, bloodied mouth and all, was the perfect example of the hard-nosed evening he had.
2nd MVD: After saying that Anaheim would need to get an ugly goal to turn things around Matt Beleskey went out and had a critical hand in both of the second period goals. His willingness to go to the high traffic area in front of the net lead to the first off a rebound, and the second off a nifty play taking advantage of indecisiveness in front of the net. Beleskey had the third best shot attempt (+3) and unblocked shot attempt differential (+3) amongst forwards, yet saw more ice time than the two above him. He and Beauchemin were the only players who were on ice for both of the goals.
1st MVD: It was abundantly clear in the early goings that the Ducks were still having issues defensively, and while there were no catastrophic break downs on the order of the games in Florida, John Gibson was a difference maker in the first two periods. As stated on the broadcast his 28 saves through the first two periods seemed a stabilizing force and helped the unit get it's footing back for the final 20 minutes. With Frederik Andersen on the injured reserve list through the weekend, this was the kind of confidence-inspiring performance to help him hold the fort until Andersen is ready to return.
Next Game: Sunday, February 15, 2015 vs Washington, 5:00 PM PT