Anaheim Ducks Blow Lead, Lose 4-3 in Shootout to Calgary Flames

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Nov 18, 2014; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Paul Byron (32) and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen (45) fight for position during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks looked to get going on a road trip through Western Canada. Though the team had earned points in eight of its previous 10 games, it only won four of those games and only three in regulation or overtime. Their first test was against a Calgary team that came into the game leading the Western Conference in goals, with 59, while facing an old friend in net in Jonas Hiller, who won 174 games as a member of the Anaheim Ducks through seven seasons.

The Ducks started strong with a great 40 minutes of play, but they faltered down the stretch, giving up a two goal lead in the third period before ultimately falling to the Flames 4-3 in the shootout. The Ducks played their sixth game past regulation in their past seven contests. However, the Ducks are now 1-1-5 in their past seven games, with their one win coming in a shootout over the Los Angeles Kings last Wednesday.

The Ducks struck first with 4:06 left in the first period. Sami Vatanen skated around Sven Baertschi and sent a shot on goal, which deflected off the stick of Raphael Diaz past Hiller to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Nate Thompson was at the front of the net, causing traffic. The scoring chance was sustained from an offensive zone faceoff win by Thompson against Josh Jooris. The Flames never were able to clear the puck, and Vatanen eventually got the puck for his goal. After scoring his first ten points of the season on the power-play, Vatanen’s goal gave him four consecutive even strength points. The goal was Vatanen’s fifth of the season: he has scored five in 20 games this season after getting six in 48 contests last season.

The Ducks extended their lead to 2-0 at the 12:29 mark of the second period. Dennis Wideman was sent off for a tripping penalty at the 11:27 mark of the second period. Ryan Kesler won another offensive zone faceoff, also against Jooris. The puck came to Hampus Lindholm at the left point. After exchanging the puck with Vatanen, Lindholm fired a shot on net, which was tipped by Matt Beleskey to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead on the power-play tally. That was Beleskey’s eighth goal of the season, three off his career high of 11. Beleskey is a pending unrestricted free agent and has had a terrific start to the 2014-2015 season. If this continues, he will be rewarded handsomely on the open market. Vatanen, with a secondary assist on the play, re-took the lead in power-play points from defensemen, with 11.

After 40, things were looking up for the Ducks. However, the Flames’ forecheck started to yield results in the third period. The Ducks were unable to clear the puck out of the defensive zone, and the Flames made a series of nice passes. The puck came to the slot area for Jiri Hudler, who fired a puck past Frederik Andersen to cut the Ducks lead to 2-1 at the 3:25 mark of the third period. The goal was Hudler’s sixth, and he had a wide-open net to shoot at, with Andersen tangled up with Markus Granlund at the front.

The Flames would then tie the game at the 9:03 mark of the second period. While the Ducks were retrieving the puck in their own end, Vatanen tried to make a cross-ice feed to defense partner Bryan Allen. However, Vatanen missed the pass, and the puck fell right to Granlund. Granlund dropped the puck for Wideman, who hammered a one-timer past Andersen to tie the game at two. Wideman scored his sixth goal of the season, tying him with Mark Giordano for the most goals among Flames defensemen.

The Flames would take the lead with 6:17 left in the game. Paul Byron started the play forechecking Bryan Allen, who had the puck. Allen gave the puck to Vatanen, who got knocked off the puck by the forecheck of Johnny Gaudreau, and “Johnny Hockey” made the pass to Wideman who got another goal past Andersen to give the Flames a 3-2 lead. Wideman netted his seventh goal, tying him with Sean Monahan for the team lead. Gaudreau was electric in the game, showcasing his speed, skill, and terrific hockey IQ throughout the night.

However, the Ducks got the tying goal on a very important power-play opportunity. Jooris was sent off with 5:21 left for tripping Jakob Silfverberg, and the Ducks had a great chance to get the score knotted up. The Ducks won another offensive zone faceoff to start the power-play, and the Flames never got the clear. Vatanen and Fowler passed along the blue-line before making a shot-pass to Kyle Palmieri. Giordano tried to get his stick in to deny a shot, but the puck popped straight up over Hiller, who lost the puck in the air. The puck fell behind Hiller and crossed the line to tie the game at three with 4:54 remaining. The goal was Palmieri’s first of the season in his second game back from a high-ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason. Vatanen, with another secondary power-play assist, moved into a tie for second in power-play points with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin (12). Vatanen also now has 16 points, moving past Corey Perry and Kesler for the sole possession of second among all Ducks players.

Once again, 60 minutes would not be enough for the Ducks. In the overtime session, the Flames had their share of dangerous chances. Gaudreau used his speed to create havoc for the Ducks in their end. Eventually, the teams were forced into a shootout. Gaudreau went first for the Flames, who went five-hole on Andersen to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. However, Kesler would answer immediately to knot the score at one. Hudler stepped up for the Flames, but was gloved by Andersen on a backhand attempt, while Silfverberg had his shot saved by the shoulder of Hiller. Monahan was the third shooter, getting his attempt past Andersen to make it 2-1. Perry was the Ducks’ third shooter, but his attempt was also saved, giving the Flames a 2-1 win in the shootout and a 4-3 win in the game.

The Ducks, once again, failed to execute late. The Flames caused some turnovers in the third period with their forecheck, but the Ducks’ compete level dropped after a very composed opening two periods. The Ducks were constantly chasing pucks and losing puck battles throughout the game, but they were stuck in their defensive zone for extended stretches in the third period. Andersen wasn’t particularly sharp either: he allowed three goals while facing only 19 shots on goal: the defense did its part in limiting the quality of scoring chances that Calgary had, but Andersen allowed all three goals within five shots (Hudler scored on Calgary’s 10th shot on goal, while Wideman’s two goals were on the Flames’ 12th and 14th shots on goal).

Points are a good thing to come by: the Ducks are still at the top of the Western Conference with 27 standings points, but they haven’t had a regulation win in almost two and a half weeks (last one was against the Avalanche on November 2nd). After a terrific start to the season, Andersen has regressed, giving up at least three goals in his fourth consecutive start. He’s been pulled twice in those four contests while yielding 13 goals on 82 shots over 201 minutes (3.88 GAA, .840 SV%). This was supposed to be an opportunity for Andersen to seize the starting goaltender job from John Gibson while he’s nursing a groin injury for about another month, but Andersen has failed to create a gap between the two. The team needs to improve in all areas.

Here are my three stars of the game.