One thing was clear from the very first shift: this isn’t the same Minnesota Wild team in season’s past. This game was wide open from the very beginning, even getting the Ducks’ TV color analyst Brian Hayward to say ”When’s the last time we could say THAT in this building?” when speaking of the open play.
Even though both teams were scoreless in the first period, there was quite a bit of action. The Ducks almost scored on a power play but were turned away by Niklas Backstrom, who did not get very much help from his team early on in the game.
The Ducks finally got on the scoreboard in the second period on a Joffrey Lupul deflection. Ryan Whitney came in from the left boards and waited for a passing lane to open up, but that never happened. He decided to fire the puck on goal as Lupul and Teemu Selannewere both there, and Lupul got his stick on it do deflect the puck under the glove of Backstrom, who had no chance on the play.
Not long after that Lupul made an amazing defensive play to block a shot, but decided to do it with his face. Slow motion replays show that Lupul’s visor probably saved him from a more serious injury, but he still required stitches before returning to the game. Lupul played a regular role on the penalty kill and looked dangerous all night, something that could not be said of him in his last stint in an Anaheim uniform.
The Ducks added to their lead just over two minutes later. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were cycling the puck down low when Evgeny Artyukhin joined the play after Bobby Ryan changed. No one picked up ”R2″ as he glided in back door and converted on a nice pass from Perry.
The Ducks took control of the game with a power play goal from Saku Koivu on a broken play. James Wisniewskitook a slap shot that was blocked high, but the puck caromed across the ice and landed flat for Koivu who one-timed it passed Backstrom.
With the Ducks firmly in control of the game with a 3-0 lead and J.S. Giguere playing well, the Ducks went into a defensive shell. The only thing was, they didn’t. They tried, but it became clear they just don’t know how. The Wild scored three goals in an eleven minute span in the third period, twice on the power play, and tied the game with under three minutes to go.
The Ducks survived long enough to get to overtime but didn’t get very far past that. Less than two minutes into the overtime session, an unprovoked Wisniewski took one of the worst penalties that could be taken, jabbing Kyle Brodziak in the chin in the plain view of both referees. The Wild went on the power play and scored to win the game.
Getzlaf and other Ducks players were visibly angry at the referees after the game but this loss can only be blamed on the players. From Getzlaf to Wisniewski to Giguere, every player at every position lost the extra point for the Ducks and it was embarrassing to watch. I, for one, hope Coach Randy Carlyle rips into the team for giving away this game and then complaining about it.
The only good thing to come from this game was that the three Ducks goal scorers were new additions to the team. Lupul, Artyukhin, and Koivu all got on the score sheet for the Ducks and the team will look for continued production out of them. The top line of Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry were again held without a goal and it might not be a bad idea for Carlyle to break up the line for a bit in the next few games.
The Ducks also clearly need to work on their penalty killing, as they gave up two more power play goals. If the Ducks are going to have success this season they’ll need to have a good PK unit so the team can shine when playing five-on-five. But even that seems like a farfetched thought after watching the first two games of the season…