Coming into Friday night’s Game 5, the Anaheim Ducks were reeling a bit after two consecutive losses to the Dallas Stars. They weren’t moving the puck effectively, they weren’t getting the goaltending they wanted, and most importantly, they weren’t capitalizing on a slew of mistakes by the Stars, having failed to score on 11 consecutive power plays.
That all changed in a big way on Friday. Powered by four power play goals and emboldened by more mental and physical errors by the Stars, the Ducks won a 6-2 laugher at the Honda Center to seize a 3-2 series lead and set up a potential clincher on Sunday night in Dallas.
In the first period of the game, the Ducks got an early power play and they took advantage of it. Moving the puck around the offensive zone with an ease that hadn’t been visible in recent games, the Ducks eventually got a pass to Nick Bonino. When Jordie Benn overcommitted to the far side of the zone, Bonino danced around him and forced a shot past Kari Lehtonen to make it a 1-0 game.
Later on after the Ducks had surrendered a short-handed goal following a five minute major to Ryan Garbutt, they responded perfectly just 24 seconds later. The puck once again flew around the zone, going tape to tape on every pass, and it made its way back to the point. Francois Beauchemin saw traffic in front of Lehtonen’s cage, and unleashed a one-timer slap shot that Rickard Rakell deflected to make it a 2-1 game.
In the third period, the Ducks took advantage of every Dallas misstep in a stunning display of offense. When Brenden Dillon carelessly passed a puck behind the Stars’ net, Andrew Cogliano stole it and with a quick flick of the wrists found Jakub Silfverberg in front. Before Lehtonen even had a chance to react to the play, Silfverberg netted his first goal of the playoffs.
Perhaps more important than the goal itself was the fact that it seized momentum back for the Ducks early in the third period after the Stars had done a great job to end the second stanza. In that period, Dallas picked up a goal to cut the lead to one, and they peppered Frederik Andersen with 16 shots in total, but the goal by Silfverberg let the air out of the balloon in a big way.
The Ducks then used their physicality to make a play happen just three minutes later. Corey Perry drilled Dillon with a check to jar the puck loose, and he quickly found Ryan Getzlaf in front of the net, and the captain netted a goal to atone for his first period turnover (which led to a Jamie Benn goal), and just like that the game was 5-2.
The final blow came on yet another Stars mistake in the defensive zone. With two Stars players along the boards, Cam Fowler and Mathieu Perreault made a great play to force the puck loose, and Perreault quickly passed to Perry below the goal line. With no one near him, Perry rushed to the net, and deked around a sprawling Tim Thomas to score the Ducks’ fourth power play goal, and Anaheim cruised from there.
Quite obviously, the Ducks’ ability to capitalize on every error the Stars made gave them the edge in the game on Friday, and it had to be a great feeling for Bruce Boudreau’s team to see their hard work paying off. The Ducks forced their opponent into a lot of those errors (notably the Perry hit on Dillon), and they took full advantage. If they can do that again on Sunday night, this series could very well end in the Lone Star State. If Anaheim goes back into their passive mode of play that they showed in Games 3 and 4 of this series, then things could end up being decided in a winner-take-all Game 7 in California on Tuesday.