In the first two games of their series against the Dallas Stars, the Anaheim Ducks have made it a habit to make fans at the Honda Center sweat the results out up until the final horn sounds.
In Game 1, the Ducks built up a 4-0 lead before they surrendered two goals late in the second period and another one with just six minutes remaining in the third period. They were able to hold onto their lead in that one despite losing Ryan Getzlaf to injury in the closing seconds, but the resulting celebration was more a sigh of relief than one of jubilation as they took a 1-0 lead in the series.
On Friday night, the team grabbed a 2-1 lead late in the second period on a gorgeous goal off the stick of Corey Perry on the rush, and then added to that five minutes into the third period on a short-handed goal by Andrew Cogliano after a bad turnover by the Stars.
With a 3-1 lead, the Ducks seemed to have everything well in hand, but a goal by Ryan Garbutt with about 10 minutes remaining threw the outcome back into question. The Ducks eventually pulled the win off, but it was the way they persevered through the onslaught of late chances that really stood out as they held serve before they head to Dallas for Game 3.
On Dallas’ first power play of the third period (their fifth overall in the game), they had a difficult time establishing possession in the offensive zone initially thanks to the Ducks’ aggressive approach with their forwards out at the point. When they were finally able to get everything set up, it was the shot-blocking of Anaheim that stood out, as Nick Bonino picked up the key block on an Alex Goligoski shot before clearing the puck up ice.
To make matters worse for the Stars, they ended up turning the puck over to Cogliano deep in their own territory, and after a bit of give-and-go passing with Getzlaf, Cogliano was able to wrist a shot over the sprawling Kari Lehtonen to make it a two goal game and to seize some serious momentum for the home side. The Stars didn’t really threaten again through the rest of the power play, and it looked like the Ducks had everything under control.
Obviously, that was not meant to be the case, as the Stars scored their aforementioned second goal just five minutes later. They continued to press the issue for the remainder of the period as the Ducks were knocked back on their heels, and as a reward they got the biggest opportunity they could dream of with just three minutes remaining in regulation: a power play with Getlzaf in the penalty box.
In the first 30 seconds of the power play, it was Bonino once again that stood tall for Anaheim. He won the initial face-off, and after Dallas attempted to enter the zone for a second go-around, Bonino won the puck along the boards and cleared it. Daniel Winnik made a great play in the neutral zone on Dallas’ next entry attempt, and he cleared the puck out of the zone.
With the clock winding down on the power play, Dallas coach Lindy Ruff elected to pull Lehtonen for the extra attacker, but the result stayed the same. Bryan Allen made a huge shot block to keep the Ducks ahead, and then Winnik went out to the point to challenge Trevor Daley on a shot, forcing it high and over the net. The Stars had one more burst in them, but thanks to some solid goaltending by Frederik Andersen and fearless play from several players, including Getzlaf, the Ducks were able to hold on.
Those two third period penalty kills made all the difference in the world for the Ducks as they grabbed their second win in a row. The Stars outshot them 15-2 in the third period and 25-9 overall in the final two stanzas on Friday, but they still couldn’t escape Honda Center with a win as defensive discipline and aggressive speed on the wings limited their quality scoring chances on the man-advantage.
The win for the Ducks can be credited to those attributes, and if they can continue to show that kind of blend of speed and discipline, they are going to prove to be a difficult puzzle to solve as the playoffs wear on.