Anaheim Ducks Falter Again, Fall 2-1 to Vancouver Canucks in Shootout

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Nov 9, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen (45) celebrates with the bench after he scores a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

In a week full of roster chaos, the Anaheim Ducks were given another hurdle on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks. During warm-ups, it was announced that both Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin would miss Sunday’s game. Fowler suffered a lower-body injury on Friday’s shootout loss to the Coyotes, possibly to the left knee he suffered an MCL sprain to in March. Beauchemin, on the other hand, had been battling the same flu-like symptoms that star winger Corey Perry had been. Perry was placed on Injured Reserve before the game retroactive to Wednesday, meaning he would not be able to return until next Wednesday.

Despite the injuries, the Canucks had their own injury woes to deal with. Radim Vrbata, who signed with Vancouver in free agency and played on the top line with the famous Sedin twins, was out for the game after suffering this was also a special game for two players. For centers Ryan Kesler and Nick Bonino, this was the first game against the team that traded them. The Ducks dealt Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa (who was scratched Sunday), and 2014 1st and 3rd round picks for Kesler and a 2015 3rd round pick on June 27th in an attempt to improve the team.

The physical, rough nature of the game was set from the opening faceoff, as Ducks forward Patrick Maroon and Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa dropped the gloves three seconds into the game. That would not be the only bout, as in the second period, Ducks defenseman Josh Manson and Canucks blue-liner Ryan Stanton would drop the mitts once more. The teams combined for 51 hits, 29 of which were dealt by Anaheim players.

The Ducks only had one power-play opportunity on the night, but the team cashed in the Dan Hamhuis hooking minor almost instantly. Kesler and Bonino squared off in the faceoff circle, and Sami Vatanen got to the puck and fired a wrister past Eddie Lack to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead at 2:37 in the second period. The Ducks took three seconds to win the faceoff and get the shot off. That was Vatanen’s fourth goal and tenth point of the season, all of which have come on the power-play. His four power-play goals are tied with Perry for the most on the team and tied for the NHL lead among defensemen with Dallas Stars blue-liner Trevor Daley. Vatanen’s ten power-play points are tops among NHL defensemen (entering the game, Vatanen’s nine power-play tallies was tied with Arizona Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle for most among defensemen).

On Friday, a lull and lapse in concentration in the second period ultimately cost the Ducks two points, as Arizona scored twice in 58 seconds to tie the game at 2 before taking the game in the shootout. On Sunday, the Ducks again lost focus in the second period. Bonino left a drop pass for Alexandre Burrows, who shot the puck on Frederik Andersen. The rebound fell to the wall, where Hamhuis fired a shot that Burrows tipped through Andersen’s five-hole. Burrows’ third goal of the season tied the game at one at the 11:49 mark of the second period, while Bonino picked up his sixth assist of the season, moving him into a tie with Vrbata for third on the team in scoring.

The Ducks really lost control of the game and let Vancouver back in it. In the first period, Anaheim outshot Vancouver 11-9. That number was extended to 14-9 in the second period, yet Vancouver outshot the Ducks 25-8 for the rest of regulation, including getting the first 12 shots on goal before Anaheim could get their 15th. The Ducks turned it on in overtime, registering seven of the eight total shots on goal in the five-minute extra session, but Lack weathered the storm, and it went to the shootout.

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was the first to go in the shootout, and he tried sliding the puck under Lack, but he closed the gap just in time to stop him. Bonino, on the other end, squeezed the puck through Andersen, who lifted his right pad at the last second, giving the former Duck the chance to slip the puck in. Jakob Silfverberg drew the next shot, but rang his signature wrister off the crossbar. Chris Higgins went for Vancouver, but Andersen denied him with his right pad. That set the stage for Kesler to extend the shootout against his former club. Unfortunately, Kesler rang his shot off the post, giving Vancouver a 1-0 victory in the shootout and a 2-1 victory in the game. Bonino ended the game with an assist on Vancouver’s only goal, as well as the shootout winner. Meanwhile, this was Lack’s first win of the season and first start where he gave up fewer than three goals.

Anaheim’s lack of focus in the middle of games is concerning. The team dropped its third consecutive game, with all the losses coming after regulation. Throughout this homestand, the Ducks have not played a full 60 minutes of good hockey in regulation, and they have left all three games without the full two points. The team played about 30 minutes of solid hockey in regulation against the Islanders, 55 against the Coyotes, and 25 against the Canucks. Yes, the team is shorthanded, but on Sunday, the 18 skaters out there controlled play and was on its way to having a very good game against the Canucks. However, the team let up its intensity and let Vancouver get back into the game. Shorthanded or not, there are no excuses: every team suffers injuries, and this team had a lead and was thoroughly outplaying its opposition. This level of play was costly, and Anaheim was fortunate to even earn a point, as Andersen was spectacular for the Ducks.

As always, here are my three stars for the game.