John Gibson came in rested, having not played since Tuesday. This was Saturday, when the Ducks had Vegas in town for an evening contest. The Anaheim team took a 1-0 lead at about the ten-minute mark but lost it late in the first period. Nothing new there. The team has lost 3-0 leads a couple of times in the last week.
The collapses have been substantial. The kind that would cause people in bigger markets to call for a coach’s head. No such doings in Anaheim, though the team, whoever’s fault it is, sits next to last in the West with 17 points as of late Saturday night.
That includes an overtime loss in Anaheim against the Golden Knights.
The Las Vegas team went ahead 2-1 in period two, Karlsson scoring the goal. No other action ensued, but neither did the Ducks stop playing.
After having been put on waivers, then moved up in the lineup (odd choices have abounded this year on this team), Adam Henrique scored a goal to tie the contest with 8:55 left in the third period. It came off a potentially high stick by Silfverberg, who batted it down to the ice before Henrique poked it past Fleury’s pad.
That goal was reviewed and confirmed, having been challenged by Vegas’s coach. He lost that, giving the Ducks a power play to boot for delay of game. It was 2-2 with the shots 21-20 for Vegas. The team didn’t score on the PP, which is essentially to par for a squad that has but one home power play goal yet this year.
The game proceeded in a way that’s not easy to describe. There were a few chances, but not many. But it wasn’t a case of a lesser team deploying a stifling defense to smother a faster, better one. It was a case of the Vegas team being only marginally better, and that should encourage the Ducks, suggesting that they can hang with the best teams in their division, if not better them. The goaltending didn’t hurt, on either end. Though there were not a lot of shots, as earlier noted, netminders Gibson and Fleury were sharp, especially with the leg saves.
Late in the going, two chances barely missed going in on Anaheim’s behalf. One was a deflection on a long shot that just went wide. The other was a stuff by Rakell that was blocked by a downed Fleury, who maintained his body position and got it with his chest. Rakell ended the game with a goal and an assist in any case.
The youngster Trevor Zegras, who made his debut in Anaheim on the 22nd, played his least minutes so far, just past 12. This coming off his shootout goal against the Coyotes. And another shot that could have won that game late, when he launched one off the opposing goalie’s head. It would have gone under the bar otherwise. Fans, and his family, who attended the Arizona games, still await his first scoring point.
Henrique played 14:43 after being scratched for three games. He started the 3-on-3 OT, winning the faceoff. Fowler and Silfverberg began the five-minute extra time with him. Fleury was spectacular on two saves on the next rotation of players, as the Ducks kept pouring it on. Lundestrom was the shooter both times, a shot and a rebound in the close slot. Then Gibson did some magic on Pacioretty and Stone attacking.
“I thought I played well,” Henrique said. “I just put it on myself, and whatever is out of my control is out of my control. I just control the way I play.” His coach would also later note that he controls his attitude, and that he had kept things positive despite being cut down to size by the management’s actions.
As the game was winding down, Getzlaf then had a chance, stopped. Karlsson was sent on a breakaway by Pietrangelo after that, and he pulled the puck to his backhand and around Gibson.
“We have to find a way to win. One point is not enough,” Henrique said, and he’s right. There’s not enough runway left otherwise.
Coach Eakins concurred: “We played hard. That’s some steep competition over there. I thought we maybe could have been more assertive early, but we eventually got our feet underneath us, and started believing a little bit more in ourselves. We played a real hard, hard game and a gritty one to be able to come back and tie that up.” He also said Henrique had played his way up the lineup during the game and noted that he had handled his up-and-down week with class and poise.
The Ducks now play St. Louis at home Monday. Vegas has Minnesota in Nevada on Monday.