Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau predicted that Dallas would play their strongest game of the three game miniseries tonight and his prediction proved true as the Stars beat the Ducks in Anaheim, 3-1.
The first period proved to be chaotic for the Ducks who played without their captain and first line center, Ryan Getzlaf. Saku Koivu would step into the first line center role, resulting in all the Ducks lines being more mixed and matched than usual, (which is saying something for a Boudreau coached team). The Stars would take advantage of the Ducks chaos, scoring all three of their goals in the first period.
The first goal of the game would come courtesy of Lane McDermid halfway through the first, followed by a quick response from Andrew Cogliano just about 20 seconds later in the game. With such a quick response things were looking up for the Ducks until just minutes later goalie Viktor Fasth left his crease to play a puck, which he decided to retreat from as Eric Nystrom was able to get an angle on Corey Perry for the loose puck. Fasth’s poor decision to play a loose puck left Nystrom with, essentially, an open net and an easy 2nd goal of the game for the Dallas Stars.
The Ducks would not respond and the Stars added salt to the wound as Alex Chiasson would score on the rush, bringing the first period to an end, and concluding the scoring for the rest of the game. The Stars got some strong play from their goaltender Kari Lehtonen allowing them to shut the door for the rest of the game, but the game could easily be chalked up more as a Ducks loss than a Stars win. That isn’t to say the Stars didn’t play well, clearly they did, but the Ducks were clearly hurt by a jumbled lineup, some poor decisions, and perhaps an underestimation of their opponent.
As the game went on the Ducks shut the door, not allowing any additional Stars goals but the same would be true for the Stars who have declared they aren’t out of the playoff picture just yet. The Ducks game improved but they struggled to find their offensive rhythm and when facing Kari Lehtonen simply couldn’t find a way to get the puck in the net. The Ducks were impressive on the penalty kill, going 6 for 6, but then disappointed by going 0-4 on the powerplay.
All in all it was a disappointing night for the Ducks, who, with a regulation loss, have allowed Los Angeles and San Jose to creep closer in the division standings, and have given the Stars some playoff hopes. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau was critical of the team, stating that they need to get their mouths under control to help them gain sympathy with referees, rather than finding themselves rewarded with unsportsmanship conduct penalties as Matt Beleskey did in the 2nd period. The Ducks have certainly fallen victim this season to missed calls, and Ducks fans can only hope that Anaheim’s roster can do a better job of not shooting their mouths off and maybe gaining some favor with referees. With such a feared powerplay it would be nice to see it on the ice more often.
Matthew Lombardi looked good on the ice for the Ducks and shows promising signs, but at this point, Getzlaf can’t return to the lineup soon enough. Beyond Getzlaf however, we can only hope that Jonas Hiller returns fully healthy soon after sitting out tonight with a cold. Fasth has, (per usual), played very well and his mistake can even be a good one in that hopefully it isn’t repeated, but having Hiller in the lineup certainly makes the Ducks a much more formidable team.
If there is a silver lining to tonight’s game it’s that the Ducks are, with every loss, working kinks out of the system. The Ducks played one very poor period and paid an enormous price for it, but then went on to play two solid periods. Hopefully the Ducks figure out how to both play a 60 minute game, and play through adversity. There’s no guarantee that the Ducks will be fully healthy in the playoffs, and learning to jumble lines and play in different spots, while not ideal, is a good lesson to learn.
Tonight proved the value of having depth in the lineup. Having more options at center proved invaluable as Nick Bonino and Ryan Getzlaf sat out, and the Ducks had to go so far as hiring a local goaltender to come in and sit on the bench until backup and Norfolk affiliate goaltender Igor Bobkov arrived from Virginia to step in for Jonas Hiller. On night’s like this, despite the loss, it’s nice to know we have guys like David Steckel, Matthew Lombardi, Viktor Fasth, Saku Koivu and beyond who are able to step into larger roles, albeit temporarily.
Hopefully Getzlaf is back by Sunday to play in the freeway faceoff against the Los Angeles Kings. It’s sure to be a good game as the Ducks will be looking to rebound from tonight’s loss, and the Kings are looking to gain ground on their Pacific Division rival. Bonino won’t return for probably a couple more weeks, but even so, the Ducks should be a much better team on Sunday than they were tonight.