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Ducks @ Panthers RECAP: Cat Back in the Bag

Anaheim sweeps the back-to-back Florida trip.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1st Period

If the Ducks were going to have a shot at winning the second game of this Florida back-to-back, they would likely need to score early to give themselves a cushion. And that’s exactly what they did.

Carter Rowney won a faceoff in the offensive zone to Brian Gibbons who made a great touch pass back to Josh Manson at the blue line. Manson wound up and fired. The puck deflected off a Panthers defenseman and into the net after goaltender James Reimer couldn’t get all of it. The Ducks had a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game, marking the second fastest goal scored in Ducks history behind Paul Kariya scoring just in just 8 seconds in 1997.

The Panthers would control the majority of the shot attempts the rest of the period, having been shocked awake by the goal against. Fortunately, the Ducks did a good job at keeping the majority of shots to the outside.

2nd Period

About 3 minutes into the middle frame, the Ducks were caught puck-watching down in the corner. While every single Duck stood there gazing longingly at the puck wishing it would magically float to them, no one picked up Aaron Ekblad coming down from the point right in front of the net. What should have been Gibbons’ man was completely ignored. Aleksander Barkov picked up his teammate and fed a pass from behind the net for Ekblad to one-time right in front of the net behind John Gibson. Tied at 1.

Later in the period, Marcus Pettersson would be sent off for tripping Evgenii Dadonov. The Russian would get his revenge on the ensuing power play by tipping in a great slap-pass from Jonathan Huberdeau at the point to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead.

Just 3 minutes after taking the lead, the Ducks depth scoring would make things happen again, as they had on the first goal of the game and the previous night in Tampa Bay. Adam Henrique sent the puck up the boards after a good forecheck by Kiefer Sherwood. Marcus Pettersson got it and immediately sent it on net. Nick Ritchie, doing what he does best in front of the net, got a touch on the puck as it deflected into the back of the net.

3rd Period

The final period saw the Ducks make a rare push to win despite being almost doubled up on shots, not settling with overtime. This is something we haven’t seen for most of the past couple of seasons, with the team seemingly fine with just sitting back and picking up a standings point.

With just 90 seconds remaining in regulation, Ritchie would pick up a loose puck spit out from traffic in front. Reimer was screened heavily with the bodies in front of him, as Ritchie would peer around the mess of skaters in front and fire the puck home to give the Ducks a late 3-2 lead and put the game to bed for Anaheim.

Best and Worst

Best: Ritchie on fire

A convenient scapegoat and frequent trade target for much of the Ducks fan base, Nick Ritchie has begun to silence the mob with 8 point in his last 7 games. Despite missing 15 games holding out for a new contract at the start of the season as well as an injury, the 22-year-old power forward is now on a 60+ point pace over a full 82 game season. It remains to be seen if he can keep up the pace, but he’s undoubtedly been one of the Ducks best forwards since he returned from injury.

Worst: Drowning in shots

Another classic Carlyle result, the Ducks were able to pull out a victory despite being outshot and out-chanced for most of the game. Fortunately, John Gibson once again came up big, stopping 42 of 44 shots. The issues of constantly being outshot have been well-documented, and we know the Ducks really will not get far in the playoffs if they continue to play like this.

Best: Sitting near the top of the division

Despite the struggles of this early season, Anaheim finds themselves not only in 3rd place in the Pacific Division, but also only one point behind the Calgary Flames for the lead. Given the Ducks being almost dead last in the league in goals for and last in shot attempt share, a weak division and the combined powers of John Gibson and Ryan Miller have given this team a shot at competing.

3 Stars

3. John Gibson

2. Evgenii Dadonov

1. Nick Ritchie