Anaheim Ducks Hold On, Edge Buffalo Sabres 4-1

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Oct 13, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

With the Anaheim Ducks coming off a spectacular 3-0 shutout win over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, many expected the team to cruise along against the Buffalo Sabres, a team they had already defeated 5-1 in dominating fashion just nine days before. The Ducks seemed to be in a position to nab their sixth consecutive win and improve their record at home to 3-0-0: the Sabres had only scored seven goals in their first six games, going 1-5-0 with their only points coming in a shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

While it appears on the scoreboard that the Ducks dominated this game, that is far from telling. The Sabres fought hard and hung around in the game, but Anaheim gave Buffalo numerous opportunities to stick around in this game. Nevertheless, the Anaheim Ducks found a way to win the game 4-1. The team has won six straight games and sits atop the Western Conference with 12 points.

Star winger Corey Perry iced the game with 2:43 left to play in the 3rd period when he scored his seventh goal of the season and second of the game. Zemgus Girgensons won a faceoff against Ryan Getzlaf, but Andre Benoit failed to clear the puck. Getzlaf fired a pass to a wide-open Corey Perry, who hammered a shot past goaltender Michal Neuvirth to give the Ducks a 3-1 lead.

Getzlaf and Perry connected earlier in the game as well. Devante Smith-Pelly gave a pass to Getzlaf, who pushed a beautiful pass to a streaking Perry, who had gotten a step ahead of Cody Hodgson. Perry got the puck and fired the first shot on goal of the night for the Ducks, and it gave the team a 1-0 lead.

Perry completed his second hat trick of the season and seventh of his career by scoring an empty-net goal with 2:25 left in the game. Francois Beauchemin won a puck battle with Sabres captain Brian Gionta behind the Anaheim net, and Perry fired the puck down the ice into the open net to finish with his eighth goal in seven games. His eight goals are tied for the NHL lead with New York Rangers forward Rick Nash. Both Perry and Getzlaf are tied with New York Islanders forward John Tavares and Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin for the NHL lead in points with 10 apiece. Getzlaf is also now the current league leader in assists, with eight.

The other Anaheim Ducks goal was scored by Ryan Kesler, who received a feed from Andrew Cogliano on an odd-man rush in the 2nd period. Kesler fired a wrister that deflected off Sabres defenseman Mike Weber past Neuvirth, giving the Ducks a 2-0 lead with 10:40 left in the 2nd.

For the Sabres, Tyler Ennis scored his third goal of the season with 5:06 remaining in the game. Matt Moulson put a shot on goal, and Frederik Andersen couldn’t contain the rebound. Ennis, who was crashing to the net, put the puck on his backhand and fired one past Andersen, ending the Dane’s shutout streak at 152:46 and the Sabres’ team scoreless streak at an even 197 minutes. That was the Sabres’ eighth goal of the season, and only four of their players have scored this season.

While the Perry hat trick and three-goal win look great, the Ducks had their issues. They committed ten giveaways, many of which were in the defensive zone and led to offensive opportunities for the Sabres. Andersen had to make numerous great saves on the Sabres, who looked determined to leave Anaheim with at least a point as they began the California road-trip.

Although he was unable to nab his second consecutive shutout, Andersen stopped 22 of 23 shots and was tested consistently throughout the night, having to make difficult saves. His best save of the night came when stopping Chris Stewart on a backhand. Perry committed a giveaway, and the puck fell to Marcus Foligno, who passed to a wide open Stewart in front of Andersen. However, the Dane stopped the initial shot and pushed it wide, then covered up the following attempt.

While not a perfect win, the Ducks also showed flashes of the great team that many experts believe they can be. With 5:25 left to go in the 1st period, the third line of Matt Beleskey, William Karlsson, and Rickard Rakell started a dominating cycle game that lasted almost a full two minutes. The Ducks won every single puck battle in the offensive zone and even got a shift change for the top-line during the cycle.

When the Anaheim Ducks are clicking at that level, they are a tough team to beat. This was not one of their more complete performances. In the regular season, wins and losses matter less than how a team plays in those wins and losses. The team turned in an inconsistent effort, and without great goaltending, this game may have gone to overtime. Nevertheless, the Ducks found a way to win when they were not at their best.

As always, here are my picks for the Ducks’ three stars.