The Anaheim Ducks had no answer for the Las Vegas Golden Knights Saturday night in front of approximately ten percent of the usual Honda Center crowd. But then again, they weren’t supposed to. Entering the night, the Ducks were 3-6-1 in their last ten games and on a four-game losing streak.
Vegas, meanwhile, was atop the West with a 9-1-0 last ten and nine wins in a row, and it took them only 28 seconds to show what was what, as Chandler Stephenson caught the Ducks on a slow start and got a goal. The Ducks had a power play and made one nice cross-ice pass but to a player who waited too long to shoot. Later, Adam Henrique took a wrist shot from the slot but missed the net high.
It didn’t get any better. The Golden Knights scored another in period one, again by Stephenson, and added one in period two. That was a two-on-one where Pietrangelo passed over the Carrier with one D man back for the Ducks and Danton Heinen chasing. It went in with no chance for John Gibson.
The Ducks were unable to take advantage of Vegas goalie Robin Lehner’s mistakes. He lost the puck once and someone—perhaps Heinen—put it back across the crease to no avail. Nor were they able to crack him and therefore support their own netminder, who made two spectacular, snatching glove saves as the later part of period two wound down.
Finally, things broke for the Ducks when they evened the shots at 18-18 with two minutes gone in period three.
Sam Steel kept jamming away at the loose puck in the crease, finally knocking in his fifth goal of the season after Troy Terry drove to the net with the initial shot.
The Ducks, by this point, were ready to announce that Ryan Getzlaf was not going to return after having suffered an upper-body injury and not coming out to start period two or three.
So it was a bit of line mixing to keep play going in the third period, with the most effective trio being the scoring one of Terry, Steel, and Volkov. In fact, it was extremely hard to follow the play and determine lines because the Ducks had on a ridiculous and font-challenged sweater that threw back retroactively (what else is a reverse retro jersey—what does it mean to reverse retro?) but didn’t do much to reveal player numbers on the monitor.
In any case, things kept getting worse. William Karlsson was stopped on a break-free play across the slot. He then tried a deke to the backhand side two-on-one and was stopped. But a play later, he scored. This time, Gibson made a spectacular save on a shot. It was just like Dominic Hasek—a flip over, let the pads stay up high and it’ll hit one of them type of move. Spectacular. Then the puck came out and bounced off Karlsson and possibly off of Rakell and went in.
The Vegas team added another, to make it five, shortly later, and that’s where the scoring stopped. Dallas Eakins made the point about why things went as they went. “There were parts of the game where we did a few very good things, but we just kept giving them the puck back. Our turnover rate tonight was high, and if you turn the puck over against a team like that, they will make you pay. . . . They will make you pay, every time, and that’s what happened tonight. We didn’t manage the puck well enough.”
Aside from that score, the goaltending really was spectacular on both ends. Gibson had made some incredible glove snatches in period two. Lehner was strong and steady and just plain big. And none of the goals Gibson let in were those he would want back. Vegas just outchanced the Ducks because they have superior skill and talent as a team.
And it persisted to the end. With 26 seconds left, Karlsson put a puck over to Alec Martinez. He shot right away, and Gibson went full sail splits bursting to his left. He got the puck off his left leg pad. Too little too late, but symbolic of his never-quit attitude.
The Ducks were missing Getzlaf after a period, as noted above. But they also lacked Jacob Silfverberg, who had successful hip surgery Friday and will be out 4-6 months. The new season is supposed to start October 12. So that means there’s a chance for Silfverberg to do training camp and start the regular season if that’s the window.
Meanwhile across town (more or less) the Kings were losing to the Arizona Coyotes. Last night, after the game, Coach McLellan said of his Kings team something to the effect that losing didn’t matter in terms of points because that was a game in hand. How wrong. The pressure is now more on than ever for LA, and losing against AZ, a team ahead of them but catchable in the playoff race, is inexcusable.
The LA game was what the commentator on TV called a one-sided affair, so let’s look at the numbers. Score: 4-0 Arizona. Shots: the total was 40-26 for Arizona but perhaps more telling, the Coyotes outshot LA in each of the three periods. Power plays: Arizona capitalized on one of two, the Kings zero of two. Faceoffs Arizona up at 58%. Hits Arizona wins 38-22.
The Kings allowed the first goal mid-period one. They allowed the second with 36 seconds gone in the second period. They couldn’t answer, and saw a third go in early in the third. Phil Kessel scored a fourth about midway through the third, and still, no LA answer. Neither did anything happen to break the shutout of Kuemper.
After the game, captain Anze Kopitar was all negative. He said a number of times that his team needs and needed more energy and emotion. He pointed out the fact that the shots were only six or seven in the Kings’ list as of half the game having gone by. “We can’t expect to win games when we play a period or half a game.” He added, “It’s a mentality. It’s an attitude that has to get better. We certainly need to play with more desperation than we did tonight. We’ll address that. It’s going to have to be better, bottom line.”
Coach McLellan concurred. “We didn’t have it as a team. We didn’t have it emotionally . . . or physically either.”
He added that they were “second to a lot of pucks. We, our shot selection and our ability to get it off was slow. We didn’t defend the way we needed to, obviously, so we were the second-place team tonight for sure.”
“We just didn’t execute. Some of that is due to their aggressiveness and their reads. They were sharp tonight; they were really good. I’m sure their coach was really happy with their play.” He went on, but that’s the gist of it. There just wasn’t much to say about LA’s play.
The two SoCal teams collide on Monday night in the first of four games against each other this week.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the PHWA. He writes using team- and league-supplied media access.