Playing the second half of a back-to-back is difficult enough. Facing one of the best teams in the NHL that you have had numerous issues with in the two years since they entered the league makes it a mountain to overcome.
If anything, there is solace in that there was a lack of the unexpected. A Hampus Lindholm-less Anaheim Ducks walked into a building they have only seen success in one time, and were overwhelmed by its tenant, the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 5-2.
The game started out auspiciously with Ryan Getzlaf converting on a puck from Nick Ritchie behind the net. Ritchie’s aggressive forecheck beat Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to the puck, where he sent it onto the stick of Getzlaf crashing the net and through the five-hole.
The lead did everything but last, however, as a Mark Stone shot rang off the cross bar and parked itself in the crease beside John Gibson. Cam Fowler attempted to clear it from the crease, but inadvertently sent it right into the skate of Gibson and into the net. Own goals are super fun, right?
Vegas added another goal that highlighted their ability to cause breakdowns in defensive structure against a team that has more questions than answers on the backend. William Carrier took advantage of a bunched-up Ducks blob of skaters and passed it back while falling to a trailing Ryan Reaves who one-timed it into the open cage. The result of one of the numerous turnovers in the defensive zone for Anaheim last night.
Nicholas Roy, playing in his first every NHL game, took advantage of another defensive lapse before the period was out. Roy took a puck and burned the Michael Del Zotto-Erik Gudbranson pairing up the middle of the ice, corralling a bouncing puck at his feet and burying it behind Gibson to make the score 3-1.
Vegas finished the first with 29 shot attempts for while allowing only 11 against to the Ducks.
Old friend William Karlsson extended the lead further in the second period on a power play goal with further defensive issues, backhanding a rebound with Gibson scrambling to find the puck amongst the mass of Golden Knights bodies the Ducks had let set up camp in front of the goal crease.
While Anaheim would limit the damage to that one special teams goal, Vegas still got another 30 shot attempts off at 5v5 while allowing just 12 attempts.
One more goal to put the game out of reach came off the stick of Paul Stastny in the third period, who used the rush to put home a great Max Pacioretty pass from the boards behind Gibson. As with many of the other scoring chances, the Ducks defense seemed to be completely baffled by how to defend a scorching-hot Golden Knights puck movement sequence.
The Ducks got a feel-good goal back from Adam Henrique, taking over the team lead in scoring with his seventh of the year. Troy Terry showed his playmaking potential on the goal when he intercepted a puck in the neutral zone, carried it below the blue line, and fired a perfect pass to Henrique bearing down on the right side of Fleury who went to his backhand and slid the puck in between his legs.
Vegas continued handling the majority of play despite some noticeable effort to not go down without a fight from the Ducks, but a 5-2 loss put the Ducks with a final record of 1-3 on the road trip.
The Ducks will spend the next seven games at home where they will have plenty of chances to regroup.
Best and Worst
There weren’t many bests for the Ducks last night. One of the few positives was Ryan Getzlaf who, along with linemate Nick Ritchie, were two of the only players to not be constantly in the defensive zone. Getzlaf played the body effectively and created much of the minimal good looks Anaheim had all night.
John Gibson, believe it or not, had a solid game all things considered. While he was certainly not at his best, being caught out of position on multiple occasions, he had absolutely no help from the players in front of him in an unwelcome callback to last year’s clothesline drying party. Without him, Vegas could have put at least eight or nine total into the back of the net.
Pretty much everything else. The Ducks have had issues with Vegas since the moment they entered the league. They consistently turned the puck over and could not seem to get it back of their own accord.
They dump and chased the puck more often than they have so far this season, but only because they spent so much time in their own zone defending and were forced to dump and change completely out of gas.
This is a team in transition playing against one of the top Stanley Cup contenders in the league. The result of this game was far from surprising.
By The Numbers
3. Nick Roy
2. Max Pacioretty
1. Mark Stone