It was an unforgettable night as one of the ducklings decided to “Steel” the show. Sam Steel recorded his first NHL hat-trick, the youngest player in Ducks franchise to do so, to help the Ducks get an exciting 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
The Anaheim Ducks had a look on their faces that we’ve seen very little of this season. That look was them having fun. That’s right. The Anaheim Ducks were having fun last night. Steel- along with the newly created “kids line” (Terry, Steel, Sherwood)- brought a dynamic difference maker to the group that played a role in 4 of the 5 goals scored for the Ducks. This line allowed the rest of the offense to open up their own chances, and allowed the Ducks to play more calmly on defense.
The game really had everything: hard hits, wild plays, goals of every variety, rookie sensations, and a Ducks win of course. Sam Steel opened the scoring and it set off a back-and-forth battle on the scoreboard and the ice. Vancouver would put in two unanswered to take the lead, but Steel responded with two unanswered goals himself to reclaim the lead in the second period. The Ducks would add another on the power play and Kiefer Sherwood tacked on the eventual game winner. The team may have turtled slightly toward the end, allowing the Canucks two quick goals to bring within one, but the end result was positive.
With the win, the Ducks actually tie the Canucks in points, but remain below them in the standings due to games played. Despite the win, the Ducks were eliminated from playoff contention tonight due to the Arizona Coyotes winning. It will be the first time since 2012 that the Ducks miss the playoffs. (For anyone curious, the Ducks can only finish with a max of 82 points. The Yotes and Avs each have 81 points but play each other one more time, so one team will get at least 2 more points).
Sam Steel got the first goal (of three) on the board for the Ducks. He saw an opening in the defensive zone and sprung himself on a breakaway and went five-hole to beat Jacob Markstrom.
The Canucks would tie it up several minutes later off a wild pass by Jake Virtanen to the front of the net that went off Cam Fowler’s foot and deflected past John Gibson.
The Ducks responded well with a number of opportunities in this period. Devin Shore ripped a shot off the pipes after toe-dragging into the slot. Jakob Silfverberg would get an attempt right after. He received a pass in front of the crease and quickly deflected it on net, but put it into Markstrom’s chest.
Vancouver would make it 2-1 after another unfortunate play. Alexander Edler took a shot from the point. The puck would deflect off Corey Perry’s stick and then Tanner Pearson’s foot to sneak past Gibson.
Ducks would start the period on the penalty kill with Josh Manson getting called for roughing on the first shift, but the Ducks are able to kill it.
It would take some time in the period, but Sam Steel was able to get his second of the night and tie the game back up for the Ducks. Sherwood skated in and put a shot on net. Markstrom couldn’t save it cleanly and a scramble for the puck in front ensued. Steel was able to skate in, grab the loose puck, and throw it into basically an open net.
With a minute remaining in the period, Sam Steel scored his third goal, giving him his first career NHL hat-trick. The goal came after a crazy turn of events which I’ll try to break down. The Ducks were able to get set up in the offensive zone after one of the Canucks broke a stick. Part of the stick was left at the top of the zone, a few feet from the blue line. Cam Fowler had possession at the point and just as he was making a pass along the blue line, Markus Granlund swept the broken piece of stick forward and disrupted the pass. The whistle was blown and, after a referee discussion, it was determined an illegal play. By rule, the Ducks were awarded a penalty shot. Sam Steel was selected so he could get the hatty attempt, and he buried a backhander top shelf.
You can get a look at the play that caused the penalty shot here, followed by the filthy goal by Steel.
Granlund shovels the broken stick into the way of the puck and the Ducks are awarded a penalty shot. pic.twitter.com/drBZZ4USlU— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) March 27, 2019
Ducks would get a power play attempt seven minutes into the period. Rickard Rakell posted up in the right circle where he’s been red hot. Terry passed to Henrique who passed to Rakell. Ricky took a step forward and ripped it passed Markstrom.
A few minutes later, Kiefer Sherwood would extend the lead for the Ducks. Elias Pettersson couldn’t receive a pass cleanly off his skate and his bounced to open ice. Sherwood was the first man to it and quickly put a shot on net beating Markstrom pad-side.
During warmups, @KSherwood44 gave a puck away to a young fan.— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) March 27, 2019
In the third period, Vancouver gave up the puck to him - and he didn't miss!
Good karma is real, friends.#LetsGoDucks | #ANAvsVAN pic.twitter.com/kSRby84Gox
The Ducks would, as I mentioned, begin to turtle a little bit on the ice. And it allowed the Canucks to breathe some life into their game. The Ducks turned the puck over in their own zone to Josh Leivo. He turned into the slot and fired a wrist shot, beating Gibson top right.
Just 54 seconds later the Canucks would add on another goal, making it 5-4. Vancouver would win the faceoff clean and Troy Stetcher quickly took a shot. Gibson took it off the shoulder and Tanner Pearson was able to grab the rebound and put it in.
With two minutes remaining and down by one, the Canucks pulled their goalie. Manson and Pearson went to play the puck behind the Ducks net after a dump in and Manson took a full on helmet-to-face hit from Pearson (unintentional). Manson was on the ice for several minutes, but was able to skate off on his own. He would head to the locker room. We wouldn’t learn any more about his condition, but a concussion is very possible.
The Canucks gave a great final effort but the Ducks were able to hold them off and get the 5-4 win in regulation.
Best and Worst
Best - The Kids Line. I was slightly skeptical when the game first started to have three young players (the oldest being only 23) on one line together, thinking they might get pushed around. I was pleasantly surprised to see them stand out as the Ducks’ best line tonight. Terry, Steel, and Sherwood each contributed at least one point and were just a blast to watch because of their speed. Steel shined the most (obviously), but the entire line was electric on the ice and were generating numerous chances.
Worst - Out of position on defense. Two of the goals were unfortunate for the Ducks. But the final two goals, which gave the Canucks some hope, were controllable and the Ducks just blew the play. A costly turnover in their own zone gave Leivo his goal. And not being able to get to the puck after losing a faceoff allowed Pearson an easy rebound attempt. Both goals kind of leaving Gibson out to dry.
Three Stars of the Game
1. Sam Steel. Duh.
2. Kiefer Sherwood
3. Rickard Rakell
The Ducks next game is Friday when they travel west to take on the Calgary Flames. Puck drops at 6pm PST.