The Ducks lost to San Jose, who have now won five in a row. If you like the Ducks, that’s disappointing. But it’s not all bad.
What the Ducks did right, period one: they scored early, on a pure skill goal by Rickard Rakell. He took the puck on the right side with a minute gone, and fired it up and over the far shoulder of the goaltender, Martin Jones. The puck had been coughed up by the San Jose defense.
They didn’t get rattled when the Sharks returned the favor on a goal that appeared to be against the rules. It wasn’t even signalled at first when a crowd converged on Gibson. Play went on, but when it stopped, they reviewed the play. The puck had crossed the goal line. But how?
It looked for all the world like it was a push, with Hertl shoving the pad of Gibson and the puck, lodged underneath, barely crossing the line. Isn’t that textbook against the rules? You can’t score by pushing the goalie’s equipment across the line. You have to shoot this thing called the puck.
No challenge was issued, and at 6:44, the game was 1-1. But the Ducks hung in there. Dallas Eakins would later explain that the league has said they will only overturn calls on the ice if the evidence is iron-clad that the call was wrong. He and his goaltender felt like the puck was loose and that Hertl had possibly gotten a piece of it and thus had taken a shot.
A minute after that, Dalton Prout of the Sharks fought Nick Deslauriers after a big hit. Prout probably took the worst of it, so the Ducks didn’t have to try to motivate themselves. They stayed strong to the end of period one. The shots were Sharks 11, Ducks 10.
What the Ducks did right, period two: they scored a goal on the power play. You read that right. This unit, which came into the night 30th in a 31-team league at 8.2%, got one with the extra man. And they did it against the league’s top PK unit. The Sharks were killing at a 91.4% rate to start the game.
And you know what? I was just about to write in my notebook, “They pass too much,” because I was counting the dishes, and there were about ten before someone—Rakell, from the right point—finally took a shot. It went in to the net, was saved, and had both Henrique and Silfverberg there poking at it. Henrique propelled the puck in.
This did not excuse the ineptness of an earlier PP attempt. Here are the messes they made: Fowler slowly cruised over the blueline and lost the puck. Ritchie threw the puck in and Steel couldn’t catch up to it. Steel later muffed a shot on goal. Terry went for a pass to the front of the net rather than shooting. The first PP got zero shots on goal. Good thing the second one made up for it.
The Sharks tied the game before the period ended, on a play that quite closely resembled the goal Rakell had scored. Hertl got his second of the night and 10th goal (21stpoint) of the season on a blinding wrister fired over Gibson’s shoulder while moving from right to left in the slot.
What the Ducks did right, period three: they held in until a Sharks’ power play undid them. The penalty was an unnecessary offensive zone infraction by Derek Grant. The Sharks took a minute and a half to capitalize. But Anaheim wasn’t done. The Ducks, down that goal and another, so 4-2, stayed with things. They scored again with more than four minutes left. And they almost tied it with about 47 seconds on the clock.
Nick Ritchie got a pass as he came down the slot late with the goalie out. From one knee, he fired a one-timer, and, and, and . . . if he hadn’t hit the post, we’d be having a different conversation. One that featured the word “overtime.”
It didn’t happen, though Ritchie had the whole right side of the cage open. Clang! And the puck flew off into the corner. So the Ducks are close. They still lost. And they have things to do.
What they still need to clean up: the youngsters, namely the third line of Max Jones, Sam Steel, and Troy Terry, need to stop making mistakes. But their coach, Dallas Eakins, is OK that they do. He’s said so, encouraging them to play and learn and asking for patience from fans. But some of their foibles are almost laughable. Jones cleared a puck from the corner right to a San Jose player in the Sharks’ end in period one. There were mistakes made on the PP, as cited above, in period two. In period three, the play was cleaner, and Max Jones was responsible for the Ducks’ third goal. He was out, at the time, with Steel and Carter Rowney, each of whom got an assist.
And though the game was out of reach at 5-3 after Couture scored on a breakaway where Gibson was about to go out, got back, and then got the puck fired right through him, the trio of youngsters were on the ice to end the game. Perhaps this was Eakins’ way of saying that the loss wasn’t theirs to bear.
The Ducks had four power plays and capitalized on one. The Sharks had three and scored one goal. They also had a shorthanded maker from Evander Kane, which made the game 4-2. On that one, one of the other youngsters, defenseman Josh Mahura, got caught between defending Couture on the pass or Kane for the shot. The puck skittered by him and was converted by Kane.
Couture commented after the game on the matter of the Sharks’ recent resurgence. “It’s been very streaky, up and down. Obviously [we want] a few more ups than downs the rest of the way. . . . To win this last five in this little stretch here has been nice.”
Coach DeBoer was most pleased with the team’s play in the third period, and especially the way they started the frame and rallied. “We found another level, our entire team . . . . I thought our third was obviously our best period . . . .We regrouped between the second and the third, and I thought we came up with a good push.” He cited the first couple of shifts of the period as really good. “They got us going,” he added.
For his part, Anaheim Coach Eakins didn’t have much to say after. He tried to be positive, but he knows he’s on a climb with this team.
“We were able to get one on the power play. Those players and Mark Morrison have been working extremely hard at it . . . . I thought our forecheck was excellent again tonight . . . . We’ve got the killer mentality when we get up, and we’re getting our chances . . . and that’s when we’ve got to take another step and bury them.”
The Ducks now move to the road, playing four game in the East. The first is St. Louis. The last is Tampa Bay. Not a fun trip, and a shame that the team didn’t capitalize on this streak of home games, seven in all. They won the first two but have salvaged only two points out of the next ten possible.
I’m on The Power Play on NHL Radio Friday around 3:35 for those of you in the East.
This was the thousandth NHL game played at this arena.