Final Score: Ducks 2, Coyotes 1
Before the puck dropped, the Ducks had already dodged a bullet, in that thanks to St. Louis beating Minnesota (who rested Ryan Suter and Devan Dubnyk) Anaheim would not have to play Chicago regardless of the result of this game. A few more pregame notes: Frederik Andersen started with Jason LaBarbera backing up, due to John Gibson being back in Anaheim with an upper body injury apparently sustained in practice yesterday. So your Game 1 playoff starter is officially Freddy Andersen, not the way that we wanted the decision to be made, but such is life. Also Simon Despres was scratched for James Wisniewski to play on the top pairing with Cam Fowler and Jiri Sekac was scratched Emerson Etem drawing back in.
On the first shift of the game, the Ducks gave up a 2-on-1 with Shane Doan and Mark Arcobello against Matt Beleskey. Doan decided to take the shot and Freddy made a relatively easy save, but not exactly the start one would hope for coming off of back to back losses and heading into the playoffs. Things got better from there though. In fact, about a minute later Ryan Getzlaf redirected a Cam Fowler shot over Mike Smith and off the cross bar.
Just three and a half minutes into the game, Fleischmann took the first penalty, for a marginal at best roughing call as he may have made some head contact with his stick to Michael Stone (Note: That's the first of at least two mistakes in penalty drawn by on the official box score). It took Arizona about a minute and a half to get set up on the power play, but once they did Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot one off the post behind Freddy.
The Ducks completed the kill and immediately scored. Fresh out of the penalty box, Fleischmann received a pass in stride from Corey Perry in the neutral zone. He carried to the top of the crease and lost control of the puck, but it rolled right to Getzlaf and he lifted it over Mike Smith on the backhand. 1-0 Ducks.
Nine minutes into the game, Connor Murphy went off for high sticking Andrew Cogliano to give the Ducks their first power play opportunity. They were not able to capitalize, all of their shot attempts came from either Wiz, Sami Vatanen or Clayton Stoner at the point, with varying degrees of screen in front of Smith.
A couple of minutes later Murphy was penalized again, this time for tripping Kyle Palmieri. This was an example of that new rule where even if you get your stick on the puck and the offensive player trips over it after that you're still responsible for the trip. I don't like it, but we'll take it. The Ducks had possession for most of the two minutes, but the only time the got it to a dangerous area, Fleischmann wasn't able to get his shot away in time.
After the kill, Ryan Kesler found open Jakob Silfverberg at the top of the crease, but Silf couldn't quite handle the puck on the first chance and had to settle for a weak-ish spin around shot along the ice. With only two minutes left, Arcobello intercepted a pass from Wiz a the blueline and nearly went in on a breakaway, but Fowler covered nicely. Unfortunately Getzlaf was caught hooking the trailing player, Craig Cunningham and it was back to the kill for the Ducks. Silfverberg had the only shot on goal during the penalty, but the Ducks had to block three or four from distance.
And so, the first period ended with the Ducks leading 1-0, out shooting 14-4 and out attempting (5v5) 14-9.
The Coyotes started the middle period on the front foot, but it was Getzlaf with the first real dangerous scoring chance. Around the four minute mark he pounced on a loose puck in the slot, but Mike Smith made a nice toe save to keep it a one goal game. The fourth line had another good opportunity a few minutes later, when Murphy fell down, trying to keep pace with Etem flying down the left wing. Etem attempted the wraparound, Smith got his skate to the post in time and Tim Jackman was on the doorstep to take a whack at the rebound but Smith made the pad save again.
At the end of a physical shift in the offensive zone, Etem stripped the puck from Klas Dahlbeck as he attempted a breakout for the Coyotes and when Etem tried to bring it to the middle of the ice Dahlbeck tripped him up to send the Ducks on their third power play of the game. The Ducks controlled the puck on the perrimeter of the zone for the first full minute of the PP and came inches away from scoring. Wiz zipped a hard pass into Matt Beleskey in the slot and he redirected it on net, where Palmieri was waiting in the crease. Palms got a quick shot off between his own legs, Marek Malik style, lifted it over the pad, but hit iron. Perry had a chance in the crease off the ensuing faceoff, but the best PP of the game for either team came up empty.
The pace of the ultra bland period quickened after the penalty kill and with only 37 seconds left Silfverberg broke through. Getzlaf won a puck battle at the Arizona blueline and dumped the puck in for Andrew Cogliano to chase down. He won the race, sent a great pass into the slot where Silf was waiting and destroyed Mike Smith's water bottle with a wonderful shot. 2-0 Ducks.
Right off the bat, Beleskey got behind the Arizona D on a beautiful passing play between Silfverberg, Kesler and himself, but couldn't get his shot on goal. Perry also had some time down low early in the period, but his spinning backhand shot hit Smith in the shoulder. The best chance of the first few minutes, however, came off of a puck handling miscue by Smith. He played the puck behind his net and Rickard Rakell got in his passing lane so he threw it to the other side, right to Palmieri, who couldn't quite handle the bouncing puck well enough to get it into the empty net. Smith dove back into the crease, but the puck trickled out to Cogliano while he was still down. From an extremely sharp angle Cogs tried to get it into the top of the net, but hit the outside instead.
Just shy of three minutes in, Ekman-Larsson fell down along the boards (may have been tripped a little by Etem) and as he hit the ice, was tangled with Jackman. The shaft of Jackman's stick caught Ekman-Larsson in the face as he hit the ice an an unintentional, quasi-cross checking fashion. B.J. Crombeen took exception and bot he and Jackman were assessed roughing minors for some 4-on-4 play. At the very end of that two minute stretch Vatanen got in behind the Coyotes' net and reversed it to Getzlaf who nearly jammed it in, but Smith was just able to get back to the post. Right after that there was a wild scramble at the top of the Ducks crease, with Andersen laying flat on his stomach he only actually had to make one save and the puck ended up in the net, but after the whistle had blown.
Sami Vatanen nearly avoided a booming hit at his own goal line from former Duck great Kyle Chipchurra, and used some judo skills to turn the hit against him. As the Ducks went the other way, the puck came loose to Silfverberg at the left side of the net and he rang it off the pipe.
Freddy made one of his best saves of the game, when a loose puck squirted free to Tye McGinn in the slot, but Andersen came off his line to take away the angle and got his glove to it.
Nate Thompson had to go to the dressing room with an apparent upper body injury midway through the third, as he bounced off an attempted check and braced himself against the glass with his left hand/arm. He did not return to the game.
The Coyotes got one goal back, because of course this season had to end with a one goal win. Kesler was stripped of the puck as he tried to carry it out from behind the net by David Moss. Martin Erat passed it up from the goal line to Sam Gagne just below the faceoff dot and Gagne whipped it over the blocker of Andersen. 2-1 Ducks.
The Ducks did a great job in the last two minutes of simply refusing to allow the Coyotes to gain the zone, or even exit their own zone to pull Smith, for the last two minutes until Getzlaf tripped Erat right in front of the Arizona goal with only 16.7 seconds left. Kesler won the faceoff, Stoner cleared, the Coyotes got it back in and Andersen took a shot for the empty net, that got knocked down in the slot, but no harm, no fowl. Ducks win and clinch the first seed in the Western Conference.
The Good: The Ducks were clearly the better team all the way through, had a lot of good chances and to some extent cleansed the palate after that horrible performance against Dallas. Of course, this was the team with the best record in the West against the team with the worst record in the West, so take it with a grain of salt, I guess.
The Bad: We obviously don't know how serious the Thompson injury is yet, but any injury in game 82 as you go into the playoffs is bad news.
The Ugly: None, really. Even the worst parts of Anaheim's game tonight were basically mediocre. The power play still hasn't scored in. like, forever, but it didn't look all that bad. Turnovers weren't a huge issue, but there were a couple of stinkers as always. Overall a pretty solid game.
3rd MVD: Tomas Fleischmann - even though his assist was kind of an accident, he looked good with the twins especially in the first half of the game.
2nd MVD: Jakob Silfverberg - pretty, pretty goal and several other chances, including a post in the third period.
1st MVD: Ryan Getzlaf - apparently the rest served him well with a goal and an assist.
Next Game: Game 1 Winnipeg Jets @ Anaheim Ducks Thursday, April 16, 7:30pm PDT