By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – In the morning before they were to face Buffalo at Honda Center, the Ducks learned that Scott Niedermayer would soon be returning to the team.
Then they went out and played like he was already back.
|Mathieu Schneider (far right) scored the eventual game-winner in the second, then helped the Ducks hold Buffalo to just three shots in the period.
Though the players were informed hours prior, Niedermayer’s comeback out of a retirement indecision was announced by the team less than a half hour before the Ducks began their dismantling of a streaking Sabres team 4-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 17,147 at Honda Center.
That crowd roared its approval when Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Brian Burke's announcement during the pregame press conference that Niedermayer would return were replayed on the video board .
It was a game that had it all for the Ducks -- pretty goals, stingy defense, standout special teams and plenty of fighting -- as the Ducks looked as good as they have in this up-and-down run as defending Stanley Cup champs.
Veteran Mathieu Schneider, the defenseman brought in to replace Niedermayer, was one of four different Ducks to score goals, netting the eventual game-winner early in a dominant second period to pace Anaheim to victory.
The Ducks also got goals from Andy McDonald, Todd Bertuzzi and Corey Perry, the latter getting his team-leading 14th of the year.
"We came out and played a hard-nosed game," Bertuzzi said. "I think along with losses, ones like this, you have to throw them out and take all the positives we had out of it. We need to get ourselves ready and try to get some momentum going and continue this run."
Buffalo (12-12-1) had won six of seven coming into the game, while Anaheim (13-12-4) had dropped three of its last four. It was the first visit for Buffalo to Anaheim since Oct. 24, 2003, and the Ducks snapped a 10-game winless streak against the Sabres. The last time Anaheim win was Jan. 1, 1999, when Teemu Selanne scored a hat trick against Dominik Hasek in the Ducks' 7-2 victory in Buffalo.
Tonight the Ducks were actually in an early hole when Sabres center Jochen Hecht scored on a one-timer just 4:07 into it. Jason Pominville fed Hecht on a 2-on-zero breakaway, and Hecht smoothly punched it top shelf over Giguere. It was the eighth straight game in which Buffalo got on the board first.
But the Ducks came alive the rest of the period, punctuating things with Andy McDonald’s fourth goal of the year with 4:27 left in the period. Kent Huskins’ slap shot from the left point was deflected on its way to the net, and it hit McDonald’s skate on its way over the stripe.
The Ducks overwhelmed Buffalo for most of the second, outshooting the Sabres 16-3 and spending the majority of the time in the Buffalo zone. They also got goals from Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi to take a 3-1 lead. The three shots on goal in the period were the fewest shots against for the club this season in any period.
On the power play, Schneider let go of a wicked one-timer off a Chris Pronger pass that was aided by a Bertuzzi screen in front to give the Ducks their first lead of the game. It was the third of the year for Schneider.
With 1:40 left in the period, McDonald picked up a loose puck in the Buffalo zone, rocketed down the left wing and sent a pretty cross-ice pass to a chargiing Bertuzzi, who tipped it in from the top of the crease.
Shots on goal were 25-11 in favor of the Ducks through two periods.
The Ducks didn’t truly put the game away until Perry scored on the power play with 8:57 left in the third period. Francois Beauchemin drilled a one-timer from above the left circle that hit Buffalo's Daniel Paille on its way to the net. Right in front, Perry looks to help it into the net with a kicking motion\, but after a lengthy replay, it was ruled a goal.
J.S. Giguere was a rock in the net, saving 22 of 23 Buffalo shots and denying the Sabres on several loose-puck situations in front of the cage. Buffalo standout netminder Ryan Miller had 29 saves in a losing cause. Miller is the brother of Ducks winger Drew Miller, and the two were facing each other for the first time as NHLers. Drew had two shots on goal in 10:13 of ice time.
It was fun," Drew said. "It’s the first of hopefully many times we play against each other. We approached it as something fun. Our team wanted to win and his team wanted to win. You have to draw the line there and just go out and play your best. I got a couple of chances on him tonight and he shut the door on me, so I’m sure he’ll be getting me on that. It was great for our team to get that win."
Geoff Platt, acquired by the Ducks in mid-November from Columbus and called up two days ago, was in the starting lineup and looked strong for Anaheim. Fellow forward George Parros also made his presence felt, getting in on several offensive zone situations and engaging in two long fights with Sabres winger Andrew Peters.
That was part of a physical game that continued even after the final horn sounded, with the Ducks and Sabres engaging in a brawl behind the Buffalo goal that seemed to dissipate before sparking up again near the Sabres bench.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was pleased with the effort, saying it was "the most workmen-like 60 minutes that we’ve played in probably the last 60 days. They have skill and are a well-coached hockey club. They are an elite team from the Eastern Conference and are a hard team to play up against. That’s the type of game that we need to play."
The Ducks leave tomorrow morning to play at Chicago on Friday and Nashville the following night.
Tonight’s game marked the Ducks’ 49th consecutive sellout (17,174) at Honda Center (37 regular season plus 12 playoff games). Anaheim’s sellout streak is the third-longest among U.S.-based NHL teams.
With his goal tonight, Mathieu Schneider moves to a share for fifth in all-time goals (203 goals, along with Gary Suter) among U.S.-born NHL defensemen. He also collected an assist this evening.
Chris Kunitz appeared in his 200th career NHL game this evening.
Ryan Getzlaf has collected 1-3=4 points in the last four games and 7-9=16 points in the last 13 games.
Andy McDonald has earned points in five of the last six HOME contests (2-5=7).
J.S. Giguere has won four of his last five starts at home.
20:00 - END OF GAME - Just as the horn sounds, the Ducks and Sabres engage in a pretty big brawl behind the Buffalo net, but it's eventually broken up. The Ducks play one of their best games of the year, dominating Buffalo 4-1.
19:00 - We've got a minute left and the crowd starts to applaud. Not leaving early this time.
17:25 - Perry makes a nice pass to Getzlaf in the slot, but the shot is saved by Miller, who loses his balance and slowly falls to the ice, looking like a chopped down oak.
There's a little bit of jawing between a Buffalo fan and Anaheim fans in the seats below us here. All I could hear was one Anaheim fan yelling something that involved the words "Stanley" and "Cup". Enough said.
11:40 - Newcomer Platt gets ahead of everybody for the breakaway, but his deke move is thwarted by Miller.
11:03 - ANAHEIM GOAL - COREY PERRY - Francois Beauchemin drills a one-timer from above the left circle that hits Buffalo's Daniel Paille on its way to the net. Right in front, Perry looks to help it into the net with a kicking motion. After a lengthy replay, it's ruled that it's a goal. (By the way, they played 867-5309 during the time when the official was on the phone with the replay judge. I thought that was funny.) Anyway, it's Perry's 14th of the year and it's 4-1 Ducks. This looks out of reach.
10:35 - BUF Penalty - Alex Kotalik, 2 min. interference. The Ducks get a chance in a few seconds. After a first period without a minor, we've had a few in this period.
10:32 - Giguere is able to dive on a dangerous loose puck in front. Beauchemin gives a hard push to Derek Roy after the whistle.
9:15 - A rebound comes off Giguere and Vanek looks to have a shot at the rebound goal, but it's knocked away.
8:51 - Chris Pronger, 2 min. interference. Ducks go down a man again.
8:17 - During a goalmouth scramble, Giguere ends up on his rear, but the rest of the white jerseys keep the puck away before Giguere grabs it with the glove.
6:22 - ANA Penalty - Chris Kunitz, 2 min. roughing. Ducks go down a man.
3:45 - Parros and Andrew Peters stop play to go at it again, dropping the gloves and punching and grabbing. The official who could be seen throwing his arms in the air when the fight started, eventually dives on Peters to break it up when they fall to the ice. Parros, as he was falling, dragged Peters on top of him. By the way, 5 for both of them.
3:22 - Bertuzzi and Paul Gaustad drop the gloves right off the draw. Bertuzzi is pushed into the Buffalo bench, but keeps fighting, finally dropping Gaustad with a hard right. They both can take 5.
3:20 - Schneider takes a shot from the left point that Miller gobbles. Parros again gets feisty with a Buffalo player after the whistle. He's everywhere tonight.
Two tennis balls, three rows behind their usual fifth-row seats tonight.
1:49 - The Ducks do a great job of killing the Buffalo threat, even spending some quality time in the Sabres zone.
0:00 - We're off and running in the third, with Buffalo on the power play.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - The Ducks play one of their best periods of the season in the second, outshooting Buffalo 16-3 and scoring two goals, by Schneider and Bertuzzi. They will have to kill 1:49 of penalty time when we come back, but for now it's 3-1.
19:48 - ANA Penalty - Ryan Getzlaf
, 2 min. tripping. Getzlaf trips Brian Campbell near the boards, just before the end of the period.
18:20 - ANAHEIM GOAL - TODD BERTUZZI - McDonald picks up a loose puck in the Buffalo zone, rockets down the left wing and lets go of a gorgeous cross-ice pass to a charging Bertuzzi, who tips it in from the top of the crease. Might be the prettiest goal of the year for Anaheim. They lead 3-1.
17:26 - As Getzlaf gets within an eyelash of knocking the pass away, Spacek rips a one-timer that Giguere swallows.
15:55 - ANA Penalty - Corey Perry
, 2 min. tripping. Perry takes down Andrej Sekera in the corner behind the Sabres net.
13:53 - Perry goes all out to try and tap in a rebound off the back boards, but Miller says no.
12:22 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - MATHIEU SCHNEIDER - On the power play, Pronger feeds Schneider in the right circle, and Schneider unleashes a one-timer that gets through MIller with the help of a phenomenal screen by big Todd Bertuzzi.
11:52 - BUF Penalty - Jaroslav Spacek, 2 min. hooking. On the delayed penalty, as Giguere heads to the bench, O'Donnell nearly sends it into the Ducks net, before Pronger reaches out and stops it.
10:58 - Parros comes roaring in from the corner to try and jam it through MIller, but Miller's isn't having it.
8:41 - BUF Penalty - Jaroslav Spacek, 2 min. tripping. First power play for either team. Let's see what the Ducks do with it.
8:19 - Kunitz makes a nice drop pass to Perry in the slot. Perry's shot hits Miller, than trickles behind him into the paint. But he quickly dives on it.
During the timeout, the parents of Drew and Ryan Miller are interviewed on TV. Mom is wearing a blazer that is half orange and half navy blue. Love it.
It's trivia time during the break. Which team did Mathieu Schneider play for before spending four years in Detroit? 1) Boston Bruins, 2) Los Angeles Kings or 3) Boston Bruins. The guy guesses 2) L.A. Kings and gets it right! Of course, it helps that Wild Wing was holding up two fingers. Bonus: Which team did he start his career with? He guesses Montreal Canadiens and ... he's right! What orifice did he pull that out of?
6:10 - Miller spins from the top of the crease and shoots a backhand that is either kicked away or hits steel.
5:00 - Shockingly enough, we're 25 minutes into this game and no minors for either side.
4:32 - Travis Moen tries to tuck in a rebound off a Pronger shot, but Miller has it. Some pushing and shoving after the whistle.
2:48 - Drew Miller takes a hard wrister from the left circle at brother Ryan, but it's blocked. It was Drew's second shot in less than a minute.
1:25 - Bertuzzi takes a shot as he's knocked to the ice, but it's saved.
0:00 - We drop the puck for the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - The Ducks give up an early one, but control play for much of the period, outshooting Buffalo 9-8 and getting a goal of their own from Andy McDonald at 15:33. It's 1-1after one.
15:33 - ANAHEIM GOAL - ANDY MCDONALD - Kent Huskins rips a slap shot from the blueline that deflects off a player on its way to the net, and McDonald is near the right post to just hit it in off his skate. This one was hard to catch, even with the X-MO. It's 1-1 on McDonald's fourth of the season.
13:07 - Parros and Andrew Peters engage in a lengthy bout of fisticuffs. Peters actually initially skated away from George, who was ready to drop the gloves. Then a bit later he returns to get into it. They each throw several punches, not landing anything too damaging. They'll both hit their respective boxes for 5.
A fan is shown on TV holding up a sign that says Current Temperature: Anaheim 71 Buffalo 17. Now that's some trash talk. Unfortunatly, it's currently Buffalo 1 Anaheim 0.
9:01 - Parros leads the Ducks on a rush (crowd gets excited). Parros loses the puck on the wing (crowd groans). .
5:50 - Parros snaps off a shot from the left circle that Miller saves and holds, as the Ducks swarm for the rebound.
4:07 - BUFFALO GOAL - JOCHEN HECHT - Jason Pominville gets the puck behind the Ducks defense, and is joined by Hecht on a 2-on-none. He slides the puck to Hecht, who one-times it top shelf. Nothing Giguere could do on that one. A large contingent of Buffalo fans roar when the puck hits the twine. It's 1-0 early.
The Ducks are wearing their whites, with Buffalo in navy blue.
By the way, Todd Marchant is in the starting lineup tonight for the Ducks. New call-up Geoff Platt is in the starting lineup. Oh, and in case you missed it, 27 is coming back.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center, in Buffalo's first visit here since 2003.
Starting Goaltenders: ANA Jean-Sebastien Giguere; BUF Ryan Miller
Starting Skaters: ANA Todd Bertuzzi, Mathieu Schneider, Andy McDonald, Geoff Platt, Francois Beauchemin; BUF Jaroslav Spacek, Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville, Brian Campbell, Jochen Hecht
Scratches: ANA Shane Hnidy, Brian Sutherby, Brad May; BUF Henrik Tallinder, Michael Ryan