The Anaheim Ducks surprised everyone as they came into this game playing some good hockey. They seemed motivated, generating chances and playing hard. They came away with a lot of positives, and won every shooting category. But they lost the only category that matters, dropping this one 2-1 in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ducks began the game turning the puck over right in front of their own net in the first minute, forcing Gibson to make a huge save on his first shot against. To make it worse, three shots was all it took for the Leafs to get on the board. A puck was thrown on net and Patrick Marleau got a lucky bounce with it going off his skate and past John Gibson.
Despite the early mistakes and goal, the Ducks weren’t being overly outplayed. They were getting their opportunities, mostly generated from the top line of Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, and Pontus Aberg. It seemed they were just missing passes or not getting the exact shot they wanted, which led to them not scoring. They were able to limit the Leafs on opportunities though which is something to be happy with. They even ended the period outshooting the Leafs 12-9.
The Ducks got their best chance of the night so far coming from a nice play by Aberg and Rakell. Aberg did a spin move along the left side boards and threw a centering pass. Rakell tipped the puck and sent it on net but Sparks was able to make the save.
The Ducks would then proceed to take a couple penalties. Andy Welinski gave the Leafs the first powerplay of the game on a hooking call. The Ducks were strong defensively on the PK, blocking some key passes that would’ve resulted in a goal. Minutes later, Josh Manson would get sent to the box. The Ducks dominated the PK again, not surrendering a single shot against.
It must’ve given them a momentum swing because they responded by taking control of the offensive chances, and it paid off late in the period. Pontus Aberg tied the game up with just over a minute remaining. As Nick Ritchie entered the zone he sent a saucer pass over to Aberg on the opposite side. Aberg just loaded up and ripped a slapshot on net that beat Sparks. The Ducks finished the period with 6 of the 10 scoring chances.
John Tavares came extremely close to breaking the tie. Zach Hyman put a wrist shot on net the Gibson blocked with his left pad but put a rebound right in front. Tavares was able to get a piece of it but sent it just wide as he got tangled up and ends up knocking the net off.
Ondrej Kase responded for the Ducks. Off of the faceoff, Kase got a loose puck in front and it led to a pair of chances. Sparks was left sprawling around the net on his back but somehow the puck stayed out.
The Ducks continued to put on the pressure and as they trade chances throughout the third. They generated a lot of opportunities but couldn’t convert. The best chance coming when Kase was left with a gaping wide open net and the puck on his tape from 5 feet out. Somehow Gardiner got just enough of his skate on the shot and, unfortunately for the Ducks, the puck went wide.
The Ducks got another blaring opportunity. In the offensive zone, Kase threw the puck in front right as he circles down below the net. Getzlaf took a swing at it but it stayed loose in front as Sparks sprawled out and ended up on his back. The puck went right to Rakell’s stick who had half an open net but he shot it into a defender in front. In the chaos, the Leafs cleared the puck over the glass and got called for a delay of game. Nothing came of the power play though.
Neither team could figure the opposing goaltender out in the third, and the Ducks and Leafs would need at least an Overtime period to determine a winner.
Mitch Marner came out hard off the opening draw. He almost had a partial breakaway right away but Brandon Montour made a diving poke-check. However Marner kept pressuring and got a turnover in front for a chance, but Gibson made the save.
The Ducks and Leafs traded chances back and forth with both goaltenders making some outstanding saves, Unfortunately the Leafs get the last opportunity of the game. Rakell and Adam Henrique almost had an odd-man opportunity but it was broken up and the two collided giving the Leafs an odd-man 3 on 1 chance. Marner hit the pass across to Reilly, and Reilly put it in a perfect spot despite Gibson’s great attempt at a save. The Ducks lose in overtime.
Best and Worst
Best - The Ducks top line dominated play when they were on the ice, generating 20 scoring chances. Aberg and Kase both got time on the top line in the game. Getzlaf was strong on the puck play and seemed to just take the puck when he wanted. Meanwhile Rakell was in front of net everytime the puck was. Somehow that line was unable to get a goal, but Toronto just couldn’t stop them and seemed focused on just clearing the puck when they could. They got unlucky tonight. If the line can keep that intensity, they’ll be potting goals left and right soon enough.
Worst - The Ducks are still bad at overtime, really bad. They almost allowed a goal within the first 20 seconds. Even with them seemingly trading chances, the Leafs were getting the higher quality chances and making Gibson make big saves. The Ducks did get their chances, but most of them Sparks was in position for, or they chances were broken up last second. Then there’s Rakell and Henrique colliding with each other giving the Leafs an odd-man chance that they didn’t need to rush on and would score the game-winner on.
Best - The Ducks won the shooting battles at even strength, against the team that leads the leagues in goals scored. They outshot the Leafs 30-29, had more scoring chances (34-33), and had more high-danger chances (11-9). If you throw in all situations, the Ducks still won or tie those categories. Again, luck was not on their side tonight, but if they can repeat that type of performance, more W’s are on the horizon.
Three Stars of the Game
1. Pontus Aberg - the kid can score. Gets the only Ducks’ goal and leads the team in goals.
2. John Gibson
3. Rickard Rakell
The Ducks will be back in action on Sunday, game two of their four-game home stand, when they host the Colorado Avalanche. Puck drops at 5pm PST.