Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars charges forward with the puck

Stars Star in Anaheim

On the night when Cam Fowler played his 800th game, all with the Ducks, and Trevor Zegras was immortalized in bobblehead form, it might have been hoped that the Anaheim squad could muster a spirited effort. That they did, but the results did not follow, though excitement ensued as the game, between the Ducks and Dallas, went to OT.

 

The Ducks had a strategy going in. They scratched Max Comtois and Vincent Letieri. Ryan Getzlaf, after having played Tuesday against the same Dallas team the Quacks were now facing, was out. And in the absence of these players, Dallas Eakins decided to go with 11 forwards only, and thus seven defensemen. He also would feature a new line, that being Zegras (full-sized version) with Troy Terry and Derek Grant.

 

Grant, you might recall, was earlier in the season labelled a third line-guy, maybe at times forth- line guy—rugged and dependable but limited in scoring skills. Now, Eakins says that very reason—his ruggedness, his ability to go to the “hard areas,” as they like to say—is what would propel him to success with two talented scoring youngsters. As Eakins expressed it early on Thursday, Grant would be the glue, winning faceoffs and digging pucks out of the corner.

 

That’s a great idea, but for it to work, the Ducks would have to actually be in the Dallas end, which they were not for most of the first period on Thursday. The Stars outshot the Ducks 14-4, and that’s a pretty good representation of the flow of play. To put it simply, “Anaheim got nothing” in the first period.

 

In  terms of who’s in and who’s out, given what was mentioned above about healthy scratches, note that Adam Henrique was back for the first time in three games, and Sam Steele, who was ill last game. The Ducks having decided to ice 11 forwards, they ended up with a bit of a salad of line combos as the game went on, but what you saw most frequently was the Zegras-Grant-Terry  trio.

 

They  would produce one assist on the night, which would go to Terry.

 

Behind them, the most frequently spotted group was Henrique-Milano-Mayhew, but wait! That last player was supplanted by Sam Carrick in periods one and two.

 

The other two lines were a trio and a pair, since, as was said, the Ducks were playing but eleven forwards. And anyway, keeping track of trios became pointless as period two began, since Dallas Eakins started (it looked like) playing anyone with anyone. This to try to come back from a 1-0 deficit, created in P1 when Suter poked in a rebound on his backhand. Gibson tried to get back over to his right but could not. It was Suter’s 99th  career goal. 

 

So period two saw Zegras and Milano playing with Mayhew early. Mayhew then shifted to be with Aston-Reese and Lundestrom. Meanwhile, Sam Steel was one of the odd men out in terms of that two-person fourth line, but he appeared with various  forward units as well as playing on the PK, which his gritty nature determined.  Anything to stay in the lineup, right?

 

The  Ducks would get little offense generated in period two, for  which reason, perhaps, Eakins decided to put  a young superstar line together. That would be Comtois with Zegras and Terry.

 

Still nothing much helped, as the Stars were outshooting the Ducks 18-5 just past halfway in Period two, with the same 1-0 score prevailing. The period almost ended that same way, but for a fortunate moment. Sam Carrick won a faceoff, which  Henrique put back to Jamie Drysdale at the point with  just past thirty seconds until the  bell. Drysdale put the puck to the net, but off the end boards, on purpose. His intention likely was to get the chance for a forward to slam in and pick up the puck. Instead, it went directly off the skate of goalie Jake Oettinger and into the back of the net.

 

Make no mistake about this. Drysdale put it a mile wide. The banking off the skate was pure luck. Nobody cared at that moment. The Ducks, as their play-by-play commentator loves to say, were “living right,” and despite a shots disadvantage of 23-10, the game was tied at ones.

 

Dallas needed the two points represented by a win. They were in the third wildcard spot, though a  win would put them ahead of Vegas and in the  playoff show. They’ll probably  get there anyway, given  their four games in hand, but these were real points on a real night, and getting them was essential.

 

What would the third period bring? Would the clearly weaker team find a way? Would the desperation of the stronger team prevail? Only a few Olive car warranty ads stood between fans and the truth, at least those watching at home.

 

The Stars got the first goal of P3, Andrej Sekera scoring from the mid slot on a play with lots of people in front of the net. Just over four minutes remained in the period. Some thought the game over, but not the Ducks. They potted a tying marker at 16:39 of the period to send the game to OT. Shattenkirk got the important marker. He was one of three men stacked in front of the Dallas net, and he got a stick on a shot that was taken by Vaakanainen, who took the shot from the point.

 

The overtime lasted less than a minute, with the Stars Jamie Benn bursting in right to left across the slot and put the puck past John Gibson. No contest, and the right ending—the shots were 35-23 for Dallas, and that was just as correct as the score.

  

 

Notes

The Ducks now play at Arizona on Friday  night. Dallas plays  San Jose on Saturday in northern California.

 

Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.