On Friday night, the Anaheim Ducks and Vegas Golden Knights looked to bounce back from poor games prior to the holiday break. The last time Vegas played was Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, while Anaheim fell 5-1 against the New York Rangers last Sunday. Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins hoped that the return home and a healthier lineup would make a difference.
Rickard Rakell remained out due to injury, but Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg returned after missing Sunday’s contest. Michael Del Zotto and Daniel Sprong were in the press box for Anaheim, while the Knights scratched Cody Eakin and Jon Merrill.
This was a choppy opening frame, with Vegas holding an 8-4 shot advantage. Malcolm Subban stopped an early shot on goal by Max Jones, while John Gibson turned away Ryan Reaves. Reilly Smith had a good chance in front, but Gibson denied it as well. Ondrej Kase made a valiant effort but couldn’t get the puck by Subban. Korbinian Holzer’s snap shot was also handled by the Vegas netminder. In the latter half of the period, Paul Stastny was stopped by Gibson. Erik Gudbranson then put a hit on William Carrier; he would be credited with three for the game. Gudbranson blocked a late shot by Smith, then Brayden McNabb was stopped by Gibson with 10 seconds left.
About five minutes in, the Golden Knights would break through. On his birthday, Jonathan Marchessault found himself alone with Gibson and didn’t miss. Smith and William Karlsson were credited with the assists as Vegas led 1-0.
*blows out candles* pic.twitter.com/xfAX7qhIcj— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 28, 2019
However, the turning point was still to come. Nate Schmidt was penalized for tripping Adam Henrique, then Tomas Nosek got handed a double-minor for high-sticking Getzlaf during the initial power play. Getzlaf was shaken up but would return. Meanwhile, the Ducks converted with just a second left in the two-man advantage. Cam Fowler passed to Silfverberg, who slid the puck across for Henrique to finish from the right circle. Just like that, the game was tied at one.
Thanks to Fowler, the Ducks weren’t done. His long shot deflected off two Golden Knights and floated past Subban for a 2-1 Ducks lead. Sam Steel and Devin Shore ended up with the apples.
Just 14 seconds later, the barrage would continue when a Jacob Larsson shot was deflected in by Max Comtois. Isac Lundestrom received the secondary assist on that one, and the scoreboard read 3-1 in favor of the home team. All in all, not bad for a span of fewer than two minutes.
Steel and Nosek would receive offsetting minors. Later, Mark Stone and Getzlaf were flagged for roughing. In the final minute, Holzer went to the box for tripping.
Former Ducks Karlsson and Shea Theodore got immediate scoring chances but were turned away by Gibson. Josh Manson took a penalty for kneeing Nosek, but Anaheim did a nice job of killing it. After Manson exited, Subban stopped his wrist shot. Gibson dodged a bullet when Smith rang one off the post. Nearly halfway through the stanza, the Ducks got some insurance thanks to a turnover by the Knights. Amid the chaos, Carter Rowney tapped the puck to Shore who banked in a goal off the back of Subban. Now it was 4-1 Ducks.
In the final two minutes, Schmidt got a lucky one when he threw the puck toward the goal and it nicked Henrique’s stick before entering the net. Stone would receive the garbage-time assist and the Knights trailed 4-2.
Nate Schmidt— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 28, 2019
4-2 ANA pic.twitter.com/YE4fn8qg2N
Gibson’s stats look a lot worse thanks to the late push by Vegas. Max Pacioretty passed to Stone. Meanwhile, Schmidt got his second in two minutes by one-timing Stone’s feed past Gibson with seven seconds left. Final score: Ducks 4, Golden Knights 3.
Nate Schmidt - 2nd of the game— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 28, 2019
4-3 ANA FINAL pic.twitter.com/828GZpkuUd
All in all, it was an opportunistic game that reminded me a bit of the game Anaheim won in St. Louis on November 16. The Ducks improved their record to 16-18-4 while the Knights are now 20-15-6.
By The Numbers
Shots on Goal – ANA: 18 VGK: 29
5v5 CF% – ANA: 34.72% VGK: 65.28%
High Danger Chances For – ANA: 9 VGK: 6
Heat Map and Stat Card below
**All stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com
**Stat Card courtesy of hockeystatcards.com
3 Stars (as voted by the media)
1. Cam Fowler - Rewarded with the on-ice television interview after racking up a goal and an assist.
2. Devin Shore - His goal was the game-winner and he added a helper.
3. Adam Henrique - Possibly the timeliest goal of the game.
The Ducks stay at home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, December 29 at 5:30 PM Pacific Time.