Ducks Squeak Out Another Win

When your meathead gets pulled down by one of the other guys’ best defensemen and draws a penalty within the first couple of minutes of the start of a game, you know you’re going to be OK. When that comes after you’ve already scored a goal, at about a minute in, and when you score yet another one on the ensuing power play, you’re pretty psyched.

But when you’re up 3-0 in a game you really, really need to have–it’s about six minutes into the game–and you chase the other team’s workhorse goalie, you know things might just be going your way.

But games don’t end in six minutes, and in this contest, the Calgary Flames made sure to make that point.

That pretty much sums up what happened to the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night, 19 hours after they’d finished a tense overtime game against the LA Kings which was won on a Corey Perry wrist shot that went up and over the LA goalie’s old-school style brown leather-look glove (it was retro night).

Perry was at it again Sunday, taking no time in getting his 77th point (an assist on the first goal of the game by Ryan Getzlaf), which superceded his previous seasons total. He added a goal of his own to make it 78 points soon after. This means that Perry has increased his point total in each of the first six seasons of his career. The only other player since 2000-01 to make a six-season run where each was better than the last is Henrik Sedin.

For anyone inclined to blame Calgary starter Miikka Kiprusoff for the poor start, well, it would be possible to do that. He had been screened on the first goal, but it was a wrister from the slot, and he was for some reason moving the wrong direction, to his right, when it looped over him. The second was a goalmouth scramble that got poked in. The third was a slapshot that came from just inside the blueline and that he simply missed.

He was yanked and went to the dressing room briefly before reappearing on the bench in a red baseball cap. But before you get hating him too much, consider that this was Kipper’s 64th game of the season.

Back to the Ducks. They made two lineup changes. Andy Sutton was out, having played a middling game in LA. He was good at times, taking a penalty he had no choice but to take to keep Dustin Brown from scoring on what was, essentially, a breakaway. But he also took a stupid cross-checking penalty 22 seconds later, and on the night ended up 1-1 with a hit and two blocked shots. The leader in that latter category, by the way, was Lubomir Visnovsky, who had five.  Second up was Toni Lydman with four.

The other change, and it was a bit surprising, was that in net was Dan Ellis. Not that he’s so bad, as we’ve detailed over the past few weeks. In fact, he’s put some good games as evident by his 5-2-1 record with Anaheim. But the last time he appeared–last Sunday against Phoenix–he was pulled after a couple of periods having let in four goals on 21 shots.

Ellis started out Sunday with the Flames in his crease, him doing the splits to keep a puck out. The Ducks then let him rest as the reeled off three straight goals. The period was not without Ellis being tested, though, as the Ducks were up to the usual trick of taking penalty after penalty (if it’s fair to call two minors that). On the power plays, the Flames pressed, but it was not there that they were dangerous. Five on five, the Ducks seemed to stop playing the man in their own zone, and twice, Ellis was tested. The second time, he gave.

The first was when Mikael Backlund came out of the corner with the puck and fired a wrist shot to the top right corner. Ellis flashed his (left) catching glove to snag it.

Later in the period, the puck came out of the corner from Matt Stajan to Tom Kostopoulos, who buried a one-timer in the same spot that Ellis had just so well defended. Cam Fowler was standing in front of the net, neither taking a man nor making any attempt to block the shot. So it was 3-1, and might have been worse when Alex Tanguay went down the left side and ripped a wrist shot, which Ellis again got in the catching glove, but lower this time, and just 10 seconds on the clock.

Would different teams come out in the second? Totally. The Ducks were totally flat, playing no defense whatsoever. It wasn’t the no defense that they can get away with, though, the one where they fly down the ice and make long diagonal passes to score. This was something else, best called “standing around watching.”

The Flames took advantage when they scored at 8:04 after their three forwards took over in the Ducks’ zone. Kostopoulos took a puck that was being lazily cleared out of the zone, and passed it low on the right side to Curtis Glencross. He then threw it to the slot, where Rene Bourque was coming to the net.

Where was the defense? Standing around. Luca Sbisa let Bourque go, making a lame reach for him with his stick. There was a brief review of the play—had it gone in off a kick?  Nope, but the time delay gave Randy Carlyle a moment to rally his troops. After the game, he expressed his frustration at the lapse.

“We had a decent start to the hockey game, then it just seemed like our brain went dead, our legs went dead, and everything else went dead for a period,” said the Ducks coach.

That pep talk at the aforementioned break didn’t work. The Ducks took a penalty not long after, and Olli Jokinen launched a shot from the right point, through traffic. Clunk! it went off the post on the far side. Ellis got lucky on that one, but not the next, as a shot came from the point, this well after the power play had ended, and eluded him. As the third period started, the goal was changed from Steve Staios to Kostopoulos on a deflection, but the point remains that it was only a halfway hard shot, and it went under the goalie’s arm.

There were no chants of “E-mer-y” at that point, but there might have been. The three goals Ellis allowed were about the same as the ones the Calgary starter had given up, and he got pulled.

The third period had the Ducks behind again, but Ellis was good.

Carlyle thought the team was better, too.

“I thought we got it back a little bit in the third period, in the end, in the circumstances we’ve been in,” the Ducks coach said. “What happened last night and the amount of importance in that game and the amount of importance in this game, I thought our guys showed a tremendous amount of resiliance to reach back and get more.”

That doesn’t mean that it ended in the third, though the Flames’ Kostopoulos, again, was sent in on goal with a nifty pass through the slot, and Ellis got a glove on the shot. He wasn’t so good a few minutes later on a power play.

Ellis let one get over his shoulder when captain Jarome Iginla took the puck inside the blueline and, with the defense backing off (not, it’s not clear why), worked it down, down, to the dot and fired it past the Ducks goalie to give Calgary the 4-3 lead.

“We knew we just had to keep working,” Getzlaf said. “There’s not a lot to be said at that point. We’re a bunch of professionals in here, and we knew the situation, the standings.”

Late in the third, Selanne tied the game on the power play, which ultimately forced overtime. Selanne now sits in eighth place on the all-time list for power play goals, and 30th in points. Every game, and there’s talk, again, that he’s done after this year, puts him higher into the territory of the gods.

Overtime came, the Ducks had a penalty shot that was foiled, and then on the faceoff ensuing, Getzlaf kicked it back to the point, Lydman launched a slapshot, and Perry touched it, maybe, in front. After the game, Perry said when asked how he deflected it. “I have no idea. I went to the net off the faceoff, and I guess it touched me somehow, in some way. I have no idea [how]. I felt somebody hit me; I have no idea how it happened. It could be Toni’s goal for all I know.

“[It] was huge,” Perry added about the victory. “It shows that there’s always fight left in us at the end of a game, and we don’t roll over. There’s always a chance for us, and we’re going out there and fighting for every inch of the ice. We don’t quit. Down one, down two, we just keep pushing.”

Do the Ducks want to make the playoffs?  They say they do, but they sure didn’t play like it for much of Sunday’s contest. Halfway through the third, with the Flames having erased a three-goal deficit, the Ducks were outshot, 34-21. The Ducks did get the 5-4 win, though the shots ended up 41-33 in Calgary’s favor.  Most problematic was the lack of defense, lack of effort in all zones, that the home team displayed not just with the three-goal lead, but as that lead slipped away.

Does Calgary want to make the playoffs? Well, it looked that way, but in the end, the Ducks pulled out yet another miracle. Now they watch while the Flames go to LA Monday night. They’ll be hungry, and angry, so the Kings had better watch out.

Ducks Notes

Goalie Jonas Hiller might be heading for a comeback. Press reports locally have him practicing and that he’s hoping to feel well enough with a good week of practice to set a date for his return.

The team now heads on the road, for three dates–Dallas, Nashville, and Chicago. They’ll be back home again on the 28th to play Colorado.

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