1st Period: The fans in attendance at American Airlines Center weren't treated to particularly exciting hockey at the beginning of the night. Both teams exchanged zone entries with limited looks at any good shots on goal, with slightly more chances coming from Anaheim. Just a few minutes into the game, Tim Jackman took a good open ice hit from Ales Hemsky, who didn't see that he was on a collision course with anyone. Jackman proceeded to the bench with some difficulty to get evaluated. Unfortunately, it was announced about halfway through the period that he suffered a lower-body injury, and in less than four minutes of game time, his night was already done.
After some more back and forth hockey, the first power play of the game was finally called with four and a half minutes left in the period. It was Dallas's unit that were the beneficiaries, as Jiri Sekac got sent to the box for hooking. The Ducks' penalty killers did a fantastic job negating Sekac's penalty, making it a chore for the Stars to even enter the zone. Immediately after exiting the box, Cakes carried the puck down the wing and saw Corey Perry cutting through the slot with a step on Trevor Daley. With some well-placed sauce to Perry's tape, #10 easily pulled the puck around a helpless Jhonas Enroth and roofed a backhand to break the ice towards period's end. Just like the Stars faithful learned in the playoffs last year, their booing may not have the desired effect on Dallas's favorite Duck. Ducks 1, Stars 0
The clock wound down to zeroes without anything else noteworthy happening. Thanks to Perry's 27th of the year, the Ducks found themselves with something that's been hard to come by lately: a first intermission lead. 13-10 shot advantage also went to the visitors.
2nd Period: Refusing to let Anaheim strengthen their grip on the game, the Stars came out in the second with the intent to return some pressure. They definitely got off to a quicker start than the Ducks, keeping the puck in John Gibson's end for much longer stretches than they could in the first. Curtis McKenzie made an effort to further energize his team by dropping the gloves with Clayton Stoner. Despite the fact that Stoner was the one connecting on his shots, McKenzie was the one who scored the takedown. The two earned similar rewards: five minutes off their feet in their respective penalty boxes.
The Stars almost broke through after Josh Manson threw a puck into the slot right to a wide-open
Ron Weasley Cody Eakin, but Gibson was ready to kick aside the opportunity. Smelling blood, the Stars continued to keep their foot on the Ducks' collective throat without pause. Their second great chance came when Jason Spezza was found all alone front and center on top of Gibson's crease, but the young tendy sprawled to his right to turn away another potential game-tying shot.
Just as the Ducks finally started to show signs of fighting back (read: clear the zone without an icing call), Stoner was sent off for cross-checking Spezza. With the kind of difficulty that Anaheim had holding Dallas at bay during even strength situations, the last thing they needed was to give their opponents an extra man. The PK was surprisingly effective for most of the two minutes. It was only a matter of time until something went Dallas's way, though; Jamie Benn picked up a rebound at the side of the net and threw the puck in front of Gibby. Patrick Eaves received the pass, and wasted no time in tapping the puck past Gibson and an unprepared Hampus Lindholm with one second left in the Stoner penalty. Stars 1, Ducks 1
Of course, in true second period fashion, the Stars got another golden opportunity as time began to expire. Hemsky found himself on a breakaway in the period's dying seconds, but Cam Fowler disrupted him enough for Gibson to stop the puck. It wasn't a clean play though; Fowler got sent off for hooking, giving the Stars their third power play of the night. On the bright side, the Ducks had the second intermission to regroup before handling a majority of Fowler's penalty. That's about where the good news ends, as the Stars were the ones carrying the momentum after tying the game at one and outshooting the good guys 17-3 in the period to take a 27-16 shot advantage. Even the Ducks' official Twitter account didn't make any effort to sugarcoat the brutal second period, taking a very blunt perspective again and again and again.
3rd Period: With the exception of a nifty Ryan Kesler chance off the opening faceoff, the Stars picked up right where they left off after their dominating second stanza. The penalty killers looked to be prepared for a Dallas onslaught, and they answered accordingly by keeping the opposing power play unit out on the perimeter. With their success at keeping the Stars at a distance, Anaheim's third penalty of the night was killed successfully. As good as Gibson had been in this game, his suspect rebound control that has shown itself at times almost cost the team another goal. A harmless dump-in that bounced on goal ricocheted off the tendy's stick harder than it should have been allowed to, and McKenzie flew through the slot with a put-back attempt that Gibson denied. A mess of bodies and desperation from both sides took no time to materialize in front of the net, and amidst all the chaos, Vernon Fiddler found himself with the puck and a wide open net. Gibson, seemingly down and out, dove to his right and got the paddle on Fiddler's shot to everyone's surprise, to keep the game tied.
To be frank, the team owed their goalie for bailing them out for most of the night, and on the next rush they got into the Dallas zone, a bomb from the blue line found its way past everybody and trickled past Enroth to give the Ducks the lead, courtesy of... CLAYTON STONER?!? *insert "Stoner blazed/ripped/smoked a shot through the green" joke here* Ducks 2, Stars 1
Another lesson that we learned in last year's playoff series is that Dallas is a team that refuses to roll over. Fully aware of the fact that they had the upper hand for most of the night, the Stars looked to rebuild the momentum that they were operating with before the Stoner goal. It didn't take long for the home team to put the Ducks back on their heels, but luckily for them, Gibson continued to keep his net locked down. As hard as Gibby worked all night, it was almost certainly a very reassuring sight for him to see his offense connect on a play that every team in the league should fear. From center ice, Perry found Getzlaf behind the entire Dallas team, and set him up on a breakaway that was almost too easy for him. The Captain backed up Enroth all the way to the goal line, giving him more than enough room to tuck the puck in the upper right corner.
Ducks 3, Stars 1
Not long after the insurance goal, Jyrki Jokipakka aired the puck over the glass from his own zone, drawing a delay of game penalty and finally giving the Ducks a chance to take a breath. The power play unit didn't get many chances, but it didn't really matter since the Jokipakka penalty was two minutes that the Ducks could kill off the clock, and more importantly, time that they didn't have to spend pinned down in their end. With little time and options, Lindy Ruff pulled his goalie with two minutes remaining. Anaheim had little trouble holding down the fort, and despite being outshot 40-22, they leave Texas as victors by the score of 3-1.
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The Good: Gibson. This game, without a doubt, would have been a lost cause if it wasn't for some timely stops by Gibby. 39 for 40 is always a good night for a goalie, but when the team was floundering terribly in front of him, Gibson constantly bailed them out and kept them alive long enough for Stoner (!!!) and Getzlaf to pull the team ahead.
The Bad: Nate Thompson/player management. During that awful stretch in which Dallas absolutely ran Anaheim's show, Thompson was not exactly proving to be much help in stifling the Stars' offense. As fellow AC staffer Eric pointed out during the game:
Additional @war_on_ice 2P Thompson #'s: Team worst -15 SAT -11 USAT and MOST C TOI 5.8 all situations, team worst -13 SAT -9 USAT at 5on5.— Eric (@EricTheHawk) March 2, 2015
For those that are a little confused by the more uncommon acronyms, SAT stands for "shot attempts" and USAT is "unblocked shot attempts". Those numbers do a sufficient job at describing how dominant Dallas was when Thompson was on the ice. During the second, he was on the ice producing these numbers for 5 minutes and 51 seconds. Getzlaf and Kesler, on the other hand, were only out for 5:42 and 4:06, respectively. What's that about, Bruce?
The Ugly: Second period. Outshot 17-3. Thompson. It's pretty astounding that the Stars weren't up by at least a 3-1 margin after two. I'm not sure what the deal is with these middle periods lately, but it's pretty hard to watch sometimes. This has been a recurring story for the Ducks for most of the season; they can play well for a period or two and dedicate the other one towards tank mode. It's like watching two completely different teams out there, and since we know Anaheim can show opponents why they're considered to be one of the league's most elite teams, it's baffling to see them come out of the locker room and turn into a middling/lower AHL team.
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3rd MVD: Corey Perry. Goal and a helper on the night for the Worm, and he made both look so easy. Including last year's playoff series, Perry now has 4 goals and 5 assists in the last eight games against the Stars. It's very safe to say that Dallas fans absolutely despise him, and to their dismay, he's been able to feed off their boos big time.
2nd MVD: Ryan Getzlaf. The Captain scored the put-away goal that gave the Ducks that ever-so-important cushion and allowed fans to breathe a sigh of relief. Not as apparent on the scoresheet is the fact that he won 86% of his faceoffs in the defensive zone. With the way that the Stars controlled play for most of the night, each and every one of those draws were important to win, and he was almost flawless in that crucial situation. Also, he's now tied for the second-most points all-time with the franchise alongside Paul Kariya, so, yeah, Getzlaf's okay at hockey, I guess.
1st MVD: John Gibson. You guys know that I'm a goalie apologist, so it probably shouldn't be too surprising that I actually felt a little bad when I named Gibson an Icehole after the last Tampa game. Since that game, however, he's been nothing less than stellar. 5-1-0, 2.00 GAA, .936 save percentage, including 39 stops on 40 shots tonight. It's great to see that it looks like he's back to his A game that excited us all when he was a prospect, and if he keeps it going, him and Andersen are going to be a fantastic tandem for the Ducks to have in the blue paint throughout the playoffs.
Next Game: Tuesday, March 3rd, 6:00 PM PST @ Arizona Coyotes