Call me crazy, but the Ducks managed to get the first power play of the game. Tom Wilson took an early interference penalty only 36 seconds into the period. It was a tough penalty to take after a shift spent entirely in the Anaheim defensive zone. But as the hockey gods would have it, an early man advantage tends to lead to a goal. Adam Henrique (20th goal of the season) kept his high shooting percentage alive and gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead only 1:24 into the game. Rickard Rakell and Captain Dad picked up the assists.
Soon later Kevin Bieksa took an interference penalty. Ugh. Washington had a few chances against Anaheim’s passive penalty kill, but the two-minute power play was relatively calm. The Capitals managed to have two icings against which threw off their cadence.
Hampus Lindholm’s patience at the offensive blueline is something to marvel at. It could be the best thing to happen to Anaheim’s defense since Clayton Stoner’s fake slapshot. Lindholm threw a wrist shot toward the Washington crease and hit a Washington defender in front, ricocheting past Brayden Holtby. 2-0 Anaheim with assists awarded to Josh Manson and Jakob Silfverberg.
Guess what? Nick Ritchie took an offensive zone penalty by slashing Holtby’s glove between whistles. Anaheim knew that they would be flirting with disaster by putting Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals on the power play. John Carlson had the most dangerous Washington chance of the period with a patented knuckle puck. Luckily for the Ducks, the deflected puck banked off the post and was cleared out of the zone.
Shots finished deadlocked at 7-7 after the opening frame.
Hey readers, Anaheim’s current RPG line (I still miss Bobby Ryan) is amazing. This time it was the Ducks transition game that would increase the lead. In the defensive zone, Josh Manson’s skate broke up a Washington odd man rush. Ryan Getzlaf brought the puck up the ice and fed a bullet pass to Rakell. The Swede effortlessly sniped the top corner with a wicked wrister to push the score to 3-0 for the Ducks.
Thus Brayden Holtby’s night was short lived. The former Vezina winner was pulled after giving up 3 goals on only 9 shots. Fellow Anaheim Calling writer Ben Thomasian nailed it in tonight’s preview. Holtby has been subpar this season especially in his previous 10 games.
The second period was rather slow paced compared to the first. Although the shots were 14-7 for Washington, for a total of 21-14, there were not many high quality chances. When Washington did get into those high-density scoring areas, John Gibson stood tall to shut them down. The key through the opening 40 minutes was that Gibson had clear vision to the shooter.
It is becoming clear that Randy Carlyle employs a zookeeper that specializes in turtles. As is typical Anaheim Ducks hockey, Carlyle was content letting Gibson carry the load for the final frame. The Capitals made a more concerted effort to carry pucks into scoring areas, which forced Anaheim’s #1 goalie to make some key saves. Gibson was clearly on his game tonight.
In route to a 36 save shutout, Gibson showed that the lower body injury that has plagued him is in the past. Arguably, his most impressive save came against Matt Niskanen. The defenseman’s one timed slapshot from the point hit Gibson in the mask, yet the goaltender cradled the puck against his head. That is hard to do.
The Capitals ended up outshooting the Ducks 15-4 in the third period for a total of 36 shots to Anaheim’s 18. Needless to say Anaheim did not feel it was necessary to play much offense after the opening frame. Fortunately for the Ducks, their final shot was an empty net goal scored by Nick Ritchie with Adam Henrique picking up his second point of the night.
Anaheim will be back in action Thursday in Nashville against the league leading Predators.