When the margin for error is small, every mistake is magnified.
Unfortunately for the Anaheim Ducks, a brief slack moment in the third period was enough to knock them off the tightrope.
Riley Sheahan's late goal after forcing a turnover by Ryan Getzlaf in the defensive zone proved the difference as the Ducks lost 2-1 to the Detroit Red Wings Sunday night at Honda Center.
Anaheim (17-17-7, 4th Pacific) was able to overcome a bit of early bad luck on the opening goal of the game, and a strong early push from the Red Wings (22-13-7, 2nd Atlantic) to level the scoreline. Yet they were unable to find the finishing touch to tilt the game in their favor despite outshooting the opposition by a 31-24 margin, while holding healthy edges in even strength scoring chances (27-17) and high danger chances (12-5).
It took just 16 seconds for Detroit to get a luck bounce, as Tomas Tatar tried to center the puck from the far post after Luke Glendening won a puck battle along the boards and Pavel Datsyuk fed him the puck. With Darren Helm crashing the slot, Tatar's attempted pass to him feed ricocheted off the stick of Hampus Lindholm and between the legs of goalie John Gibson to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
The Red Wings raced out to an early 18-4 shot attempt advantage before Anaheim was able to counterpunch. A shot block by Getzlaf created a rush for the Ducks that saw Corey Perry carry the puck into the offensive zone. After giving the puck up to Rickard Rakell in the corner, Perry went to the front of the net, where Getzlaf found him with a feed to the slot for a backhand shot far post that leveled the score at 1-1 at the 13:35 mark. The goal invigorated the Ducks offense, who would out-attempt Detroit by a 60-39 mark for the remainder of the game.
Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek made 30 stops for the night, including 24 over the final two periods to earn his fourth straight road win. The 2015 fifth round selection made a couple of tremendous stops, robbing Rakell on a diving effort in the final minute of the the first period, as well as denying Shea Theodore between the circles through traffic in the final minute. Mrazek also benefitted from a rung post by Perry in the second period, but did enough to out-duel Gibson, who finished with 22 stops.
The game winner came in the third period, as Theodore tried to bang the puck up the far boards to Getzlaf at the blue line while under pressure. The Ducks captain curled back into the defensive zone but couldn't handle the backcheck from Sheahan, coughing the puck up to Dylan Larkin between the top of the circles. A quick return feed by the Detroit rookie savant to Sheahan set up a shot that beat Gibson tweeners, and gave the visitors the winning margin.
Once again the second line dominated their matchup, as Carl Hagelin (+10), Jakob Silfverberg (+7) and Ryan Kesler (+7) finished the top Anaheim players in unblocked even strength shot attempt differential, but were unable to convert on their chances despite generating seven scoring chances between them. Neither team could breach the opposition special teams, with Detroit coming up empty on three power play opportunities while Anaheim got nothing from a pair.
The Ducks continue their home stand against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at Honda Center, having split the first half of their eight games. Puck drop scheduled for 7 PM.