The Anaheim Ducks were looking to keep the positive momentum rolling against the Tampa Bay Lightning after a convincing 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, and despite an admirable performance from John Gibson, the Ducks were unable to find a way to spoil the California sweep for the Lightning. Here is a period-by-period breakdown of how the Bolts escaped with a narrow 2-1 victory.
The opening period began with a lot of speed, as could be expected with any game involving the Lightning, but it was Tampa Bay that would gain the first man advantage as Corey Perry was called for slashing just 3:08 into the game, putting the NHL’s 4th ranked penalty kill to the test early against the 2nd best power play unit.
The Ducks looked strong on the penalty kill, giving up no real dangerous chances and John Gibson stood tall against all other potential opportunities, and the teams returned to 5-on-5 hockey with nothing to report for the scoresheet.
John Gibson kept the game scoreless midway through the period with a fantastic stop on Nikita Kucherov, who was left all alone (how does this happen?) in front. Gibson was able to go post-to-post with speed that can only be described as lightning-like, and kicked the shot away to safety.
One hundred or so fantastic saves from John Gibson later, and the Ducks escaped to the intermission still tied at zeroes. Shots on goal favored the Lightning by a count of 17-7, and time of possession should have been somewhere around 19:30 to :30 in favor of Tampa Bay, by my rough calculation.
Early in the 2nd period, the Ducks had their best shift of the game to that point, where they were able to generate a few good scoring opportunities with the shutdown line of Chris Wagner, Andrew Cogliano, and Jakob Silfverberg buzzing around in the offensive zone, but unable to get anything past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
With 12:21 remaining in the middle frame, Tampa Bay was given their second power play opportunity of the night, as Brandon Montour was called for hooking as he tried to slow down Steven Stamkos. Unfortunately for Anaheim, another fantastic save by John Gibson left a rebound laying in front of a wide open net, and Vladislav Namestnikov slid the puck in for the easiest goal of his career, and a 1-0 lead for the Lightning.
With roughly eight minutes remaining in the period, the Lightning had a very close chance in front, but after review, the referees determined that the puck did not cross the line fully, so the score remained 1-0 and John Gibson received another Vezina vote from me for keeping the Ducks in a game they had no business being in.
Ducks fans held their breath for a while late in the period when Brandon Montour lost an edge trying to speed back on a Tampa Bay breakaway and crashed full speed into John Gibson after the save was made. Luckily, both appeared to come out of the collision unscathed, and the Ducks avoided what could have been a serious disaster.
The 2nd period came to a close with the Lightning continuing to dominate the majority of play and this time, closing the period with a lead. Shots on goal favored Tampa Bay 29-14, and quite frankly, Anaheim was very lucky that the game was even this close. If the Ducks had an average goaltender like, say, Jonathan Quick, this game could easily have been three or four to zero in favor of the Lightning.
Rinse and repeat everything that had happened so far for the first two periods to begin the third as John Gibson once again makes a miraculous save on Steven Stamkos to keep the Lightning at just one.
BUT FINALLY, THE DUCKS BROKE THROUGH! OOH AHH SILFVERBERG!
Jakob was able to get to a loose puck after Chris Wagner knocked it loose and Silfverberg was able to snap it past Vasilevskiy and tie the game at one apiece just 3:48 into the final period of regulation.
Unfortunately, the positivity was short-lived, as J.T. Brown gave the lead right back to Tampa Bay with a quick shot that sailed over John Gibson’s shoulder and into the top corner from a tough angle. 2-1 Lightning with 12:42 remaining in regulation time.
Finally, the Ducks were given their first power play opportunity with nine minutes remaining in regulation and down a goal as Ryan Callahan was called for holding. The power play was able to generate a fantastic chance from Brandon Montour that led to a very lengthy review, but the referees determined that there was no conclusive evidence to show that the puck crossed the line and it was ruled no goal.
As time began to wind down, the Ducks began to ramp up the pressure on Vasilevskiy, getting a number of a quality chances but unable to get any of them to find the back of the net. John Gibson left for the bench with just under 90 seconds to go in regulation, but the Ducks continued to struggle to find a way past the 6’3” netminder for Tampa Bay and the clock ran to triple zeroes before they were able to find the equalizer.
Tampa Bay emerged with a hard-fought 2-1 victory, but one in which John Gibson was named as the Star of the Game, with his 35 saves on 37 Tampa Bay shots. There were quite a few positives for Anaheim to pull from this game, but a loss is a loss, and they will need to regroup and try to get back into the win column when they host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.