What a game. There’s not much more that can be said about the most entertaining game the Ducks have played this year. The Ducks didn’t win, but they played what is easily their best game of the year against the best team in the league and still ended up losing 4-3 in a very close game.
The scoring started after some good fore-checking play in the first period. Corey Perry made a hit on one Penguins defenseman before Ryan Getzlaf hit the other, forcing a turnover. Scott Niedermayer intercepted the clearing attempt at the blue line and shot immediately towards the net. Perry stopped the puck about ten feet above the crease before spinning and shooting the puck into the bottom-right corner past Marc-Andre Fleury.
After two unfortunate goals against in the second period, one after a dominating shift by the Ducks and another on a delayed penalty, the Ducks were able to tie the game off the stick of Perry again. On yet another dominating shift by the RPG line, Getzlaf put the puck on net from the left faceoff dot and Perry banged home the rebound while standing at the top of the crease.
The Penguins took the lead early in the third before the Ducks tied it just 19 seconds later. Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu were again in hard on the fore-check as Koivu knocked down Brooks Orpik behind the goal. Koivu then brought the puck from behind the net and quickly put it on goal, and it somehow snuck in between Fleury’s left leg pad and the post.
Not to be outdone, the Penguins again took the lead on the next shift, scoring just 59 seconds after Koivu tied the game. But the Ducks didn’t get deflated or let down their play. No, these Ducks played their absolute best hockey from that moment on.
With the exception of a Koivu interference penalty, the Ducks had possession of the puck for almost the entire final nine minutes of the period. And that is no exaggeration, either. The Ducks quite literally had the puck in the Penguins’ zone for the final four minutes, getting chance after chance but being unable to put the puck in the net.
But it wasn’t Fleury that made all the stops. The biggest save of the night came when Sidney Crosby stacked the pads to make a save on Niedermayer after Fleury was pulled out of the net. The save prevented the Ducks from tying the game and gaining all the momentum before what would have become an overtime game.
This is a difficult loss to take. There were so many positives from this game that it’s easy to say the Ducks just plain deserved at least a point, but sometimes you don’t get the breaks. At some point the Ducks will need to start winning these types of games because playing well obviously isn’t enough.
But as I mentioned, there were many positives from this game. Nick Boynton played a solid game alongside Niedermayer, something he’s done for three straight games now. Niedermayer might possibly have a permanent defensive partner as Boynton seems to have fit in well with Niedermayer’s wandering-style game.
Another positive was the play of Sheldon Brookbank. Brookbank didn’t play heavy minutes and was only in the lineup because of the suspension to James Wisniewski, but he played tough and responsible hockey. Head Coach Randy Carlyle will be sleep a little better knowing Brookbank has settled down this season.
Yet another positive is that you can officially say the RPG Line is back. After being noticibly absent from the early games of the season, so much so that the line was broken apart, the RPG line of Bobby Ryan, Perry, and Getzlaf has come to life in the last few games, headlined by tonight’s solid performance. The line combined for two big goals and got back to playing the cycle game that made them so hard to play against last season, and they looked like that same line.
But there were also some negatives to the game. The Ducks took four minor penalties in the game and were unable to convert on their own two power play chances. It seems like this is just an unlucky season for the Ducks as even a well-played game results in a loss.
The Ducks will now turn their focus to the Nashville Predators who will come to Honda Center on Thursday.
You can watch highlights of the game here.