The Ducks were firmly in control of tonight’s game until they caught a bad break…or two. The first bad break came when Teemu Selanne literally broke his hand on a blocked shot. The second break, this one figurative, came when a puck bounced off the skate of James Wisniewski and past J.S. Giguere, giving the Stars the momentum they needed to eventually win the game.
The Ducks actually started the game very well, scoring one minute and 28 seconds into the game on a nice passing play. Selanne centered the puck to a streaking Ryan Whitney who came all the way down to the crease before passing it across for Saku Koivu for a pretty, tap-in goal.
Anaheim would continue to dominate the entire first period, spending much of it on the power play. Stars’ goalie Marty Turco made some dazzling saves to keep the Stars behind by just a goal, turning away at least a half dozen quality scoring chances.
Dallas got back into the game in the second period, controlling the puck for long stretches and putting 18 shots towards Giguere. But Giguere was able to match Turco’s solid play, turning away every shot to take the 1-0 lead into the third period.
That’s where everything fell apart. On a seemingly harmless play, James Neal softly sent the puck from the half-boards towards the net, with no traffic and nobody near it. The puck, which was going wide anyway, was softly directed by Giguere to his right, where it hit Wisniewski’s skate and went into the net to tie the game. There were no Dallas players within 20 feet of the goal at the time.
Ducks color TV analyst Brian Hayward said, as he and other analysts always do, that the next shift was the most important shift in the game. Well, he was right. Dallas came out to take control, eventually trading chances with the Ducks, before Steve Ott took a slap shot from a tough angle that slowly squeezed through Giguere and into the net, just one minute and 18 seconds after the first Dallas goal.
The next shift was again dominated by the Stars as they continued to pound away at the Ducks. The Ducks, however, would continue to get scoring chances and would continue to be turned away by Turco. The Stars eventually added an empty net goal to win the game 3-1.
And don’t get me wrong, Turco wasn’t playing perfect. He gave up huge rebounds on almost half the shots directed towards him, and most of them were towards the middle of the ice, but the Ducks just couldn’t buy a goal.
But I’ve gotta say…the Ducks played pretty well. They just couldn’t put any rebounds past Turco. It seems like the Ducks are just having that type of season – the one where all the bounces go the wrong way. Remember the 2007 Stanley Cup season? This is pretty much the opposite.
To make matters worse, it was reported that Selanne broke his hand after blocking a shot. It’s far too early to tell how long Selanne will be out but my guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-8 weeks. This might be the impetus for GM Bob Murray to start working the phones a little harder for trades.
But there were a few good signs from this game as well. Brett Festerling played a strong game in his first NHL action this season, and the third defense pairing was solid with Sheldon Brookbank along with Festerling. Also, when Selanne went down, the Ducks continued to play well despite the line mixing. That’s a sign that the players understand the system and can play interchangeably. The Ducks will need that without Selanne.
The only other point of interest is Cory Perry, who had his point streak snapped at 19 consecutive games. That’s almost a quarter of the NHL season, and I would be shocked to see anyone match that this year.
There could be a little scoring relief on the horizon, though, as Joffrey Lupul is nearing his return. Lupul recently began skating and is making good progress with his injured back, but will probably not play until the Ducks return home Sunday. Also, newly acquired Kyle Chipchura should have his visa issues sorted out by Sunday as he completes his transfer from Canada to the States.
But none of that will be enough to cover for the loss of Selanne. Tough times are ahead for the Ducks…