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Ducks Down Devils 2-1 In Closing Game On The Road

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John Gibson's 26-save night lifts Ducks over the Devils, sending Anaheim back home to Honda Center on a high-note.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Highlights Courtesy of AnaheimDucks.com

Final Score: [Ducks 2, Devils 1]

Chart courtesy of War-on-ice.com

First Period Recap:

John Gibson got the nod to man the crease for Sunday's matchup against the New Jersey Devils. Meanwhile the constant question mark surrounding the blue line roster was answered, at least for tonight, with Clayton Stoner landing a seat in the press xox for the game with a lower-body injury, allowing Saturday's scratch Hampus Lindholm a space to slot back into the lineup. On the offensive side of things, Matt Beleskey was a late scratch with a lower-body injury that occurred during warmups, meaning Tomas Fleischmann got tapped to fill the gap.

The early goings of the first period were rather lackluster with the only highlights being some stellar saves by Gibson, and a monstrous hit from Chris Wagner that sent Jon Merrill into the photographer's station between the team benches.

With just under three minutes left on the clock, James Wisniewski made an impressively athletic play to hold the puck in the offensive zone and rifled a slap shot, which was flawlessly redirected by Ryan Kesler and found the back of the net behind Devil netminder Cory Schneider. The goal was Kesler's 20th on the season, a milestone he has hit a total of seven times in his 10-season NHL career.

The period ended with the Ducks leading 1-0, despite New Jersey leading in shots on goal 11-9.

Second Period Recap:

A few solid scoring chances in the early minutes of the second period were all thwarted by the netminders, and at 4:15 into the middle frame Simon Despres was called for the game's first penalty. During Anaheim's penalty kill Nate Thompson and Andrew Cogliano managed to break out with a 2-on-1 rush, forcing an offensive zone faceoff and helping kill a good chunk of the penalty. Despres's two minutes in the sin bin ended with just one shot on goal from the Devils, which Gibson calmly steered away.

The remainder of the second period was distinguishable only by some sensational saves by John Gibson to hold New Jersey scoreless and preserve Anaheim's precarious 1-0 lead. The Devils managed to extend their shot lead to 22-17, and lead in hits 24-14 through the first two periods of play.

Third Period Recap:

Just 1:39 into the third period a hard slap shot from the point off the stick of Francois Beauchemin hit Merrill's shoulder and deflected into the net behind Schneider. The play went under review briefly, but the call on the ice stood and the goal was considered good doubling Anaheim's lead to 2-0. Initially the goal was credited to Beauchemin, however shortly thereafter it was revised to give Kesler his second goal of the night, yet a second change then reassigned the tally to Beauchemin.

Roughly 30 seconds after Beachemin's Kesler's Beauchemin's goal, Adam Henrique put the Devils shorthanded for the first time in the game. New Jersey succeeded in killing off the two-minute penalty, holding Anaheim to just one shot on goal, which came from Sami Vatanen who is the team-leader in powerplay goals on the season.

With 3:25 remaining in regulation, just following an undeniably lucky save by Schneider while laying on his back, Dainius Zubrus cut the Ducks' lead in half with a tip-in goal assisted by Andy Greene and Patrik Elias.

With over 90 seconds remaining in regulation Schneider headed to the bench in favor of the sixth attacker. With 1:02 remaining, Lindholm made a rushed mistake, sending the puck over the glass forcing him to the penalty box for delay of game and giving the Devils a 6-on-4 opportunity for the remainder of the period.

The Ducks manage to survive, but I can safely say it's been a long time since I saw a goaltender look so relieved when the horn blew signaling the end of regulation. Anaheim held on and battled through over a minute of 6-on-4, but managed to come out victorious over the Devils, who are officially mathematically eliminated from post-season contention.

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The Good: Despite being in the second night of back-to-back games and on the tail end of a road trip, Anaheim seemed to pull themselves together relatively well, and managed to pull out a win. Overall the Ducks seemed to play a decent game despite not having the greatest possession statistics, and scraping by with yet another one-goal win. They fought hard when they needed to, and managed some decent defense in front of Gibby, not to mention Gibson's performance alone went a long way to helping solidify the win.

The Bad: One of the few really apparent bad aspects of the game against the Devils was how frequently the Ducks simply allowed New Jersey to dictate play in Anaheim's defensive zone. The Devil forecheck ran rampant through parts of the game, which is something that the Ducks absolutely needs to fix and prevent if they hope to work through the first several rounds of the playoffs.

The Ugly: This is getting difficult to really insult one thing considering the Ducks managed to win in a tough situation. Was it the prettiest game of the season? Absolutely not. The team's energy team was lacking intermittently, with some long stretches of game showing Anaheim's fatigue and lethargy, however considering the number of games they've played away and in such a short period of time, it's a pretty negligible "ugly" for this game.

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3rd MVD - Ryan Kesler: Opening the scoring for Anaheim was Ryan Kesler, who scored his 20th goal of the season for an impressive seventh time in his career. Not only did he score Anaheim's first goal, he also was a nuisance in front of Schneider causing enough of a ruckus for Beauchemin's point shot to get deflected into Jersey's net extending Anaheim's lead. Kesler's night translated relatively well onto the statistics page with one takeaway, one blocked shot, three shots, a +2 rating, and one goal in 18:38 ice time.

2nd MVD - Francois Beauchemin: Tallying the eventual game-winning-goal, and his career-high tenth goal of the season is the only blue liner with an "A" on his chest, Francois Beauchemin. During the game in New Jersey, clocked far and away the most time on ice with 24:01, more than two minutes more than the second-most TOI (Hampus Lindholm with 21:43). Just shy of 2 minutes of Beauchemin's TOI was while Anaheim was shorthanded. All in all, Beau had a strong night, good possession, valuable contributions, and strong numbers statistically speaking, earning him a spot in our top three Most Valuable Ducks.

1st MVD - John Gibson: The standout story of the night was the spectacular performance of Gibson between the pipes for the Ducks, especially during the second period. Gibby managed some borderline miraculous saves, including some all out robberies on the Devils during their powerplay in the second period. The only goal that got by Gibson was deflected shortly before it reached the blue paint, making the save unlikely/downright impossible for Anaheim's young netminder. With 26 saves on 27 shots faced (.963 save percentage), Gibby kept Anaheim in the game and did his job well, he gave them a solid chance to win.

Next Game: Wednesday, April 1, 7:00pm PST (vs. Edmonton Oilers)