JOE PAVELSKI smiles before lining up for a faceoff during a game between the San Jose Sharks and the Carolina Hurricanes. Raleigh, North Carolina, United States of America. (Credit Image: Spencer Lee/Inside Hockey)
Anaheim Ducks fans love their number seven, Andrew Cogliano. They thought the two-game suspension which ended his consecutive-games streak a ripoff. They were right about that. But Lord love him, if this guy’s hands were any more stony, he’d never be able to floss his teeth.
This was on evidence no more than in the Ducks first period against San Jose, which they won, 2-0. Except that they didn’t, because the second goal, a beautiful late pass from Ryan Getzlaf in the corner to Corey Perry cruising in from the point for a slapshot was negated. You guessed it, and it wasn’t goalie interference. The Sharks challenged the play as offside—way prior, when the puck first entered the zone. And they were right, by about the width of the puck.
The linesman didn’t see it because the puck was shielded by the stick of the player carrying it, on the far side of the line, while the offending off-sider was on the near side. But the all-powerful replay machine made sure that the human element doesn’t matter anymore.
What’s next—balls and strikes called by computer? (Wait. Wrong sport. And I think they’re already talking about that, anyway.) Games played by humans should be judged in real time by humans, I say. I’ll stop now.
So the Ducks completely dominated the Sharks for the first period. This in a game where the San Jose team was coming back from the near-death of giving up a 3-0 lead to the Edmonton Oilers the prior night. They did end up taking the win in that game, 6-4. Anaheim needed to get to it with no fooling, because even without Joe Thornton in the skill department and Joel Ward in the grit department, the Sharks are dangerous. And they were ahead of the Ducks coming into the night, albeit sitting in second in the Pacific by just a point over the third-place Kings and two points (though more victories) than the Ducks, who entered the night showing in the fourth spot of the wildcard race where the top two get into the playoffs. They were two out of second place in that category.
Doing the math, Dallas and the strength of the Central are kind of mucking up the West race right now, as the third-place team in the Central is St. Louis, with 71 points. Dallas is first in the wildcard with 70 points.
But back to that first period. The Anaheim team struck early in the form of Andrej Kase, getting his 15th goal, third on the squad behind Henrique (16 goals) and Rakell (22). Henrique assisted on Kase’s goal by sending a puck up to him diagonally to the right. Kase hit the blueline, motored in to the right dot, and fired through Martin Jones. The puck barely trickled down to the ice behind Jones.
The period would eventually end with the shots 13-10 for the Ducks, but the chances and the look of the contest much more in Anaheim’s favor than that.
Oh, I was telling you about Cogliano. He got a semi-breakaway and shot to the five-hole. Easy save. The puck came off the end boards on a pass from Kesler right to Cogliano at the front right side of the net. Puck under his stick. Kesler set him up for a tip-in at the other side of the net later in the period, and he got half a blade on it. Wide. Three chances, and mostly of Cogliano’s creation, because he’s fast and he knows where to be. He just can’t finish.
One knowledgeable observer I mentioned this to at the game replied, “Yeah, and it’s getting worse as he gets older.” Good theory, and probably too late to correct this frustration-inducing behavior.
Period two saw San Jose come out with some determination. Gibson, who wasn’t tested in period one, had to make a sharp save early to preserve the 1-0 lead. They got the advantage of a power play in the first four minutes and, while they got only a couple of shots and saw the Ducks clear the puck well, they closed the shots gap and overcame the Ducks to pull out to 18-14 ahead in shots by the time the penalty was over. There were six minutes gone in the frame. The score was unchanged.
As the period wound through its middle portion, it was clear that the Sharks had resolve. Four lines in a row played good shifts, first Pavelski’s group, then Couture’s, then Tierney’s, and finally the fourth line of O’Regan. The Ducks were standing around some, as when Hertl wheeled around the net with the puck and put it out front. Gibson was strong, though. The shots finished at 24-15, which adds up to two SOG for the Ducks, 14 for the Sharks, in the second period.
The hits came hard and frequently, too. Barclay Goodrow smashed JT Brown into the boards behind the San Jose net and had to fight him in recompense. Beauchemin hit Joonas Donskoi. Bieksa was all over the ice with the smash. That actually wasn’t the greatest idea—the Sharks are too fast, too mobile, and too good at exploiting defensemen who have no other play than trying to run them.
But the Ducks held on, keeping the Sharks off the board and preserving their lead. The third period was bound to be one where the pressure was on for the Anaheim team to maintain its two-game winning streak. But they would have to hope that the Sharks started to tire from the effort at playing two nights in a row.
But is that the way to think about a tested (and perhaps superior) playoff-bound club?
The Ducks came out hard in period three. The hits continued—Wagner ran over Joakim Ryan in the Sharks’ end.
Then Cogliano blew another chance to finish when Manson took a quick shot and the puck came right back to Cogliano. He couldn’t lift it past Jones. In fairness, a defenseman got a stick back, but Cogliano could muster only a bare along-the-ice shot, and Jones got it with the shaft of his stick.
The Ducks got a second goal just shy of the midway point when the play collapsed to the San Jose net and Ritchie rolled a puck to the front with two defensemen in the way. Cam Fowler came crashing in to the crease and chopped a shot off the crossbar, down, and in.
San Jose got the goal back shortly after when Hertl chipped a puck out to the slot with a backhand pass that was right in the line for Couture to one-time it to the far side and just inside the left post. Gibson didn’t have much of a chance. 2-1, and time to go. Nine minutes, in fact.
They did it again with about a minute to go, and you could see it coming. The Sharks pulled their goalie with about two minutes left, and the Ducks stood still while the San Jose team made plays. The one that counted came with Couture wristing a puck to the net and Timo Meier getting a stick blade on it in the crease to deflect it in. Two Sharks were standing in front, but so were two Ducks. No mobility.
The Ducks have been poor in OT thus far, but they kept the puck out of their net. They didn’t put one in San Jose’s though, and it went to a shootout. The first Ducks shooter missed. The first San Jose shooter didn’t. The second Ducks shooter hit the post. The San Jose shooter put it in.
The end. San Jose fought off a 2-0 deficit and prevailed. They were kinda sure they might.
Martin Jones said afterwards, “We stuck with it all game. I thought after the first period, we really controlled a lot of the play. It’s rewarding when you put in the work. It took all of sixty minutes for us to get back in the game and to come out with a win.”
Timo Meier said, “We showed a lot of character in the third period, battling back.” He later commented, “We gave everything we got at the end, and we got rewarded. We want to continue like that and move on, bring 60 minutes of our game.”
Joe Pavelski commented, “We’re here to win. We went out that last shift, and the chatter was, ‘We’re scoring. We’re not going to give up the empty net goal.’ Guys were ready, and Kucherov makes a great play over the Timo, and it’s in the net. Then all you can think about is winning.”
When asked further about the comeback, he said, “There was no need for us to panic. We were playing good. The first period was alright. The second period got better, and we’re staring at down 2-0, and guys stepped up. Kucherov made a huge play with that shot. . . . To grab the full two points, it’s important right now.”
The Ducks were equally honest about how they blew it. Captain Ryan Getzlaf said, “It started in the second period. We didn’t play very well at all. We had two shots in the second period. At that point, you’re receiving the game a little bit. We came out with a little bit more jump in the third, but we have to find ways to put those games away.”
Coach Carlyle agreed. “I didn’t think we had energy for the 60 minutes. We stood around a little bit too much. We had the start we needed to have, but it seemed like we ran out of gas or we didn’t seem to get ahold of the pucks. We turned the puck over a few times in the third where we should’ve put the puck in. It led to momentum shifts for them.”
Over on the other side, Coach DeBoer said, “I thought despite us being down in the third, I thought we’d played well enough that we should be tied or up. The fact that we stuck with it and stuck with it, it took us 59 minutes to battle back and get it to overtime, but I liked out game tonight. I thought we played an excellent road game despite the circumstances. This is back-to-back, and less than 24 hours from playing last night. This was a gutsy win.”
The Ducks are two spots out of the wildcard. The Kings are ahead of them, with two games in hand. San Jose is second in the Pacific. It’s anybody’s to take, but the teams that make the race for the Cup will be the ones that play the full complement of minutes.
San Jose gets that. The Ducks, right now, don’t.
These two teams won’t see each other again unless they play a seven-game series down the road. The season series of four games has gone 1-2-1 against the Ducks.
The Ducks now go on the road for a quartet of games starting in Detroit on Tuesday.
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