The Anaheim Ducks were looking to salvage any points they could from a less-than-ideal road trip that started 1-2-1. The Ducks presumably had high hopes entering the road trip, as playing bottom teams like Ottawa, Montreal, and Buffalo provided a good opportunity to make up some good ground in the playoff race. However, things have not gone their way, and the game against Buffalo was not perfect, but it got the job done. The Ducks found a way to win in OT, despite giving up the lead with 14.5 seconds left on the clock.
Let’s take a look at a period-by-period breakdown of the final game of the five-game road trip for Anaheim.
The first period began with both teams trying to establish a forecheck and getting themselves established in the offensive zone. The Ducks would be the first to successfully do so, and it resulted in a penalty against Rasmus Ristolainen for interference, giving the Ducks the first power play of the evening.
The Ducks needed their special teams to show up and get some kind of positive momentum for the team in this game, and it could not have started more poorly for Anaheim. Not only did Anaheim fail to convert on the power play, but they allowed Zemgus Girgensons to score a soft shorthanded goal behind Ryan Miller to give Buffalo the lead just 3:22 into the game. Oh boy. 1-0 Sabres. Not really the start you would be looking for when you need points, and you’re playing one of the league’s worst teams.
The Ducks would be the next to take a penalty after some decently consistent pressure in Buffalo’s end of the ice. Ryan Kesler was the guilty party for roughing, and the Anaheim penalty kill would get their first test of the evening with 9:04 remaining in the opening 20.
Luckily for Anaheim, Buffalo’s 27th-ranked power play looked the part and failed to get established with any truly dangerous chances outside of a couple point shots that found their way through and hit Ryan Miller.
With 3:57 remaining in the opening period, Anaheim would get their second chance on the power play, with fans praying that they didn’t come out of this man advantage down 2-0. While the Ducks did not come out of the power play down 2-0, they did not come out of it tied 1-1 either, so there’s still room for improvement.
With 1:18 remaining in the period, the Ducks would get a third power play opportunity. This doesn’t happen everyday for the Ducks, so did they take advantage of the opportunity they had been presented with? YES, but not now.........soon.
The first period ended with the Ducks carrying 42 seconds of power play time into the middle frame, but the Sabres leading in shots on goal by a 13-11 count.
The 2nd period and HEY, LOOK AT THAT. POWER PLAY STUFF. Rickard Rakell put a puck off the post that Robin Lehner then put into the net himself with his right skate. Much appreciated Robin, we really needed that one. 1-1!
FUN FACT: The Ducks +/- on the power play for the night is at 0.
The Ducks continued to sustain pressure in the Buffalo zone for the middle part of the period, but failed to find any really high-quality scoring chances against Robin Lehner. The presence in front of the net wasn’t quite where it needed to be, as Lehner was easily able to clean up rebounds that he left in front of him.
The Sabres would get their second power play opportunity of the night as Korbinian Holzer was called for holding against Evander Kane, but Justin Falk was called for tripping Korbinian Holzer, giving the teams two full minutes of 4-on-4 hockey.
Neither team converted on the 4-on-4, but Ryan Getzlaf had a grade-A chance that hit Robin Lehner’s shoulder and deflected into the corner. A near miss, but a promising sign that Anaheim was continuing to push the pace in Buffalo’s zone.
At the 17:10 mark of the middle frame, J.T. Brown was whistled for slashing Rasmus Ristolainen, giving the Sabres their second power play opportunity of the evening. Just a few seconds into the power play, a puck deflected off Sam Reinhart’s stick in front to a wide-open Jack Eichel looking at a wide-open net. Yep, I’ll give you one hint as to what happened next....
He scored. 2-1 Sabres.
With just 38.7 seconds remaining in the 2nd period, the Ducks would draw level through Ondrej Kase slapping at a loose puck and it finding the tiniest of spaces between the pads of Robin Lehner. Not the prettiest goal, but as John Ahlers likes to say, “They don’t ask how, they ask how many”.
The 2nd period ended with the score level at two apiece, with the shots on goal now favoring Anaheim by a 25-18 count.
The 3rd period started with both teams playing tentative defense, attempting to preserve the tie game. The Ducks had shifts with high pressure, and the Sabres had shifts with high pressure, but for the first ten minutes of the period, neither team took a penalty, nor did any team break the tie.
However, with 8:38 left in the game, Ryan O’Reilly would finally break the tie, giving Anaheim the lead.
Yes, you read that right.
Ryan O’Reilly got to a loose puck that had escaped Robin Lehner, and in his attempt to put it off the end boards behind the net, the puck ricocheted off the stick of Lehner and into the net. 3-2 Anaheim, and the Ducks will absolutely take it. The goal was officially given to Corey Perry, and I’m sure that he will take it as well.
With 14.5 seconds left in regulation, we blew it. Shocking. Ryan O’Reilly redeems himself from the point with a shot that Ryan Miller never saw. Tie game, 3-3. To overtime, I suppose.
The Buffalo Sabres won the opening draw and stormed into the offensive zone, firing a shot or two at Ryan Miller before the Ducks would finally gain their first possession. Blessed be thy Adam Henrique, who finally puts an end to the pit of misery that was my mood for the last couple minutes, beating Robin Lehner over the shoulder to give the Ducks the 4-3 win. So much more stressful than it needed to be, but two points is two points, and the Ducks will be very happy to head back home.
The Ducks will be back in action on Friday night when they host the Edmonton Oilers at Honda Center in a crucial Pacific Division game.