By Adam Brady (email@example.com)
ANAHEIM – Too many times over a tumultuous past month, the Ducks have outplayed their opponent only to have nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. But in their first game in a vital month of February, Anaheim made this one count.
The Ducks took it to the visiting Sabres over the second and third periods, outshooting Buffalo 31-13 and finding the net three times to grind out a 3-2 victory at Honda Center.
|Anaheim looked strong over the final two periods and held off a late Buffalo rally to win it, 3-2.
Anaheim got big power play strikes from Chris Kunitz and Corey Perry in the third to take a two-goal lead, and held it until defenseman Craig Rivet scored a rebound goal with 6:33 left in the game. But the Ducks defense and goalie Jonas Hiller were able to protect that slim lead over the final minutes to hold on to a second straight victory.
Anaheim went on top early in the third, courtesy of an awkward shot from Chris Kunitz that got through. Andrew Ebbett chased down a dumped puck behind the Buffalo net and fed it in front to Kunitz, who barely got his stick on the redirect try. Sabres goalie Patrick Lalime, expecting a much harder shot, was fooled by the change of pace, and allowed the puck to trickle underneath him.
The two-goal lead the Ducks would take midway through the period on the power play would prove extremely valuable. Steve Montador launched a shot from above the right circle that hit Lalime and slipped underneath and behind him, just short of the stripe. Corey Perry, who was all over the goalie, spotted the loose puck and backhanded it through.
"It was a good shot by Monty," Perry said. "It just squeaked through the goalie and it was sitting there on the line. Those are the kind of goals we need to have coming down the stretch. They call them garbage goals, but somebody has to be there."
The Sabres tried feverishly to tie it, especially after a Chris Pronger interference penalty and a pulled goalie gave them a 6-on-4 opportunity in the final minute. But the Ducks refused to let them blow the door down.
"Hiller’s making the big stops when we need it," Pronger said. "We’ve had to rely on him. It’s big to have two goalies like that. It doesn’t matter which one you throw in. You know you have a guy back there that can win you a game or hold a lead when you need it. We’re starting to get that confidence in those guys and in ourselves with the way we’re playing defensively. It’s a sign in the right direction. We just hope to continue it."
It was the second straight win for the Ducks, just the second time since Dec. 10 they put together back-to-back victories. Anaheim has won three of four coming out of the All-Star break.
"We’re playing a full 60 minutes and staying to our structure," Perry said. "When we play that way, we’re a tough team to play against. It’s nice to have three of four. We just have to keep it going. It’s a battle out there. These points are crucial. We’re after the All-Star break, so everybody is pushing for playoff spots."
For the sixth straight game, the Ducks gave up the game's first goal, as Patrick Kaleta struck with 6:43 left in the first period. Kaleta went sliding into the wall behind the Anaheim net with Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, and Kaleta was the only one of the two to get up right away. He hustled to the front of the net to jump on a bouncing puck and send it underneath Hiller.
Meanwhile, Ryan was very slow to get up after it looked like he slammed his knee into the boards. He was helped off the ice, but returned to action not long afterward.
|Perry's tip-in of a loose puck on the power play midway through the third was the eventual game-winner.
In an extremely physical second period in which the Sabres went after the Ducks on several occasions following Lalime saves, the Ducks got even at the 12:43 mark. Chris Pronger ripped a slap shot from the point that was initially blocked, but he quickly got it back to hammer another one that traveled through a Todd Marchant screen and eluded Lalime.
Marchant was playing for the first time in 10 games after suffering a broken left little finger Jan. 6 versus Los Angeles, and had pins removed just this morning.
The Ducks had several more golden opportunities in the period, but couldn’t quite seem to get the puck over Lalime. They finally broke through with Kunitz and Perry’s conversions on the power play in the third. Kunitz's goal was his third in the last four games, while Perry found the net for the sixth time in his last seven.
"Probably the biggest change in the last three or four games is we’ve put the puck in deep and got to work," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "That has allowed us to play more in the offensive zone from a standpoint of the cycle game and it’s led to us not drawing the penalties in the defensive zone or the neutral ice."
Ducks center Brendan Morrison, continuing to have a rocky season for the Ducks, was a healthy scratch for just the second time this year.
Starting Wednesday, the Ducks play three road games in four days (at Minnesota, Nashville and Calgary) before coming home to face the Flames next Wednesday.
"Tonight’s a good game to build on," Pronger said. "We have to come out on Wednesday in Minnesota and make sure we bring that same effort and continue to get even better. I don’t think anybody in here can be satisfied with what we’ve accomplished over the last four games. We have to put a string together and expect it every night from one another and ourselves. We’re starting to see it and it’s up to us in here to continue that."
The Ducks extended their power play goal streak to nine consecutive games (10-for-30, 33.3%). The club has also recorded at least one power play goal in 14 of the last 15 contests (18-for-57, 31.6%).
Anaheim’s 20 shots on net in the second ties the club’s season best for one period (also 11/9/08 vs. FLA, second period). The Ducks out shot the Sabres 33-to-13 over the last two periods.
Chris Kunitz has collected 3-1=4 points in the last four games.
Andrew Ebbett has earned points in the last three games in which he’s appeared (0-3=3). He has also collected 0-5=5 assists in his last six contests.
Corey Perry has registered 6-1=7 points in the last seven games.
Since his return from injury, Teemu Selanne has collected 1-2=3 points in three contests, including two assists tonight.
Steve Montador recorded his first multi-assist (0-2=2) game since Feb. 5, 2008 (w/FLA @ TOR, 1-2=3).
Jonas Hiller earned his 14th win of the season stopping 21-of-23 shots. In his last 11 appearances, he has stopped 240-of-261 shots for a .920 SV% and 2.05 GAA (21 GA/616 MIN) with a 6-4-0 record.
Tonight’s attendance is 16,874.
20:00 - The Ducks dominate over the final two periods and stave off a late comeback to earn a 3-2 victory.
19:55 - The Ducks win the draw and send it toward the Buffalo end, as the seconds tick down to the final horn.
19:54 - The Sabres control the puck looking for the right opportunity, but can't get anything through. The Ducks get a stoppage when the puck is played out of the air with a high stick right in front of the Anaheim net.
19:00 - Lalime heads to the bench. It's 6 on 4.
18:35 - The Ducks escpae when Connolly whiffs on a bouncing puck with an open net in front of him
18:19 - ANA Penalty - Chris Pronger, 2 min. interference. Pronger makes a bad penalty, impeding the progress of Kaleta as he chases the puck into the Anaheim zone. They came mere seconds after it looked like Buffalo earned a too many men penalty when the puck hit a guy trying to come off the ice.
17:20 - Pronger tries another one that Lalime saves in the chest area, right where that yellow slug appears on his shirt.
13:27 - SABRES GOAL - CRAIG RIVET - Hiller stops a slap shot from the top of the circle by Paul Gaustad, but the rebound comes off hard on the other side of the net to a crashing Rivet, who bats it past a diving Hiller. The Sabres make it a one-goal game with 6:33 left on Rivet's first of the season.
12:30 - The Ducks got more shots on the PK than the Sabres did on the PP.
12:26 - Kunitz picks up the puck on the breakaway and tries a shot instead of deking to his left that Lalime stops.
12:00 - A slap shot from the point is the FIRST SHOT OF THE PERIOD for the Sabres.
11:17 - Moen works his tail off to muscle the puck down the wing shorthanded before taking a backhand attempt that Lalime stops.
10:28 - ANA Penalty - Drew Miller, 2 min. hooking. Not exactly what the Ducks need right now.
10:15 - ANA Penalty - George Parros
and BUF Penalty - Andrew Peters, 5 min. each fighting. Not long after the post-goal faceoff, Parros and Peters go after it behind the Buffalo net. They each throw a few haymakers, but nothing significant lands.
9:44 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - COREY PERRY - Steve Mondator rips a slap shot from above the right circle and it hits Lalime hard with Perry all over him. Perry sees the puck leak behind Lalime's rear and he jumps on it before backhanding it through. Huge 3-1 lead for Anaheim.
8:30 - BUF Penalty - Ales Kotalik, 2 min. slashing. Selanne tries a shot from the slot, saves, and then tries to sned the rebound back and it's batted out of the air by the Sabres. Niedermayer shoots the puck into the net, but just after the whistle for the slashing call, which happened somewhere along the way.
8:00 - The Ducks get lucky as a one-time try from the slot looks like it would have beaten Hiller, but it flies over the crossbar.
6:39 - Just as Lalime is saving a bouncing puck, Marchant accidentally runs into the cage and it topples on top of the netminder.
The Ducks have kept the Sabre lovers relatively quiet in the last two periods. Love that.
5:00 - Montador slams into Kaleta and he's shaken up as he heads to the bench. Just after that happens, the fan who got hit in the head by the puck is helped up the aisle. It's a blood bath in here tonight.
3:34 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - CHRIS KUNITZ - Pronger sends the puck in deep and it's picked up behind the net by Ebbett. He sends it in front to Kunitz, who barely gets his stick on the one-timer try. Lalime, expecting a much harder shot, is fooled by the changeup and it trickles underneath him. Big power play goal for the Ducks, who take a 2-1 lead.
3:01 - Another puck goes over the glass and another fan appears to be hurt. Getzlaf is against the glass signaling for someone to come help and the official tosses a towel over the glass. It's ugly tonight.
2:10 - BUF Penalty - Craig Rivet, 2 min. slashing. Rivet is getting kind of rambunctious tonight. During the delayed whistle, Montador takes a shot that travels through traffic, gets under Lalime and somehow pops up and hits the crossbar. They cannot catch a break tonight.
0:52 - A Sabres player tries to send the puck into the corner with a full shot, but it flies over the glass and strikes what looks like a little kid. He looks like he's in bad shape for awhile, but he eventually gets up on his own and heads up the aisle, to the relieved applause of the fans around him.
0:00 - Here we go in the third, tied 1-1.
20:00 - It's a physical period, just how the Ducks like it, and they respond by controlling the ice for most of the 20 minutes. They outshoot the Sabres 20-6 and get a goal from Pronger to tie it 1-1.
20:00 - ANA Penalty - Travis Moen and BUF Penalty - Paul Gaustad, 10 min. misconducts. For several minutes after the horn, the Ducks and Sabres engage in some light pushing and shoving and officials determine Moen and Gaustad went way overboard.
18:58 - The Ducks have several chances on the PP, but can't convert. Still, they're going hard right now.
17:40 - Ryan makes a great cross-ice pass to Perry on the doorstep, but he can't punch it through.
16:58 - Mike Weber, 2 min. roughing. Again after a Lalime save, the Sabres go after the Ducks. Getzlaf shoves back, but when a punch is thrown at him, he resists the urge to fight. Ducks get their first power play.
16:30 - Kunitz makes an unbelievable backhand pass from behind the net to Getzlaf right in front, but his shot is somehow saved.
15:01 - ANA Penalty - Steve Montador and BUF Penalty - Craig Rivet, 2 min. each fighting. The Ducks repeatedly try to bat at a loose puck around Lalime, but he covers it despite Kunitz hacking a couple off times. Rivet takes exception again, going after Kunitz before Montador comes to his rescue and they both drop the gloves. It's not much of a fight and there is even an undercard going on with several Ducks and Sabres in the other corner.
12:43 - ANAHEIM GOAL - CHRIS PRONGER - Pronger tries a rocket from the point that's blocked right off the bat by Patrick Kaleta. The puck kicks to Steve Montador, who gives it right back to Pronger. This time his shot sizzles through a Marchant screen and gets past Lalime. We're tied 1-1.
12:35 - Marchant is playing like mad at there. He had a number of chances in a span of a few seconds.
11:58 - Selanne tags a slap shot on the move that Lalime barely gets with the blocker.
11:35 - Selanne gets pulled down in the corner. No call.
10:19 - ANA Penalty - Bobby Ryan
, and BUF Penalty - Chris Butler, 2 min. each roughing. Ryan tries to follow up a rebound and this time Toni Lydman
decides he doesn't like people near his goalie. He shoves Ryan from behind, just before Butler pushes Ryan from the front, sparking a mini-scuffle between the two that ends when Ryan gets wrestled to the ice.
10:00 - Ryan back on the ice yet again.
8:50 - ANA Penalty - Corey Perry
and BUF Penalty - Craig Rivet, 5 min. each fighting. Perry falls to his knees trying to go after a loose puck in front of Lalime, swinging the stick once, and he gets cross-checked by Craig Rivet after Lalime freezes it. Perry shoves back and that launches a brawl involving skaters from both teams. They both get five for fighting, which seemed kind of stranged. Looked like Rivet earned something extra, but no call.
8:20 - Ryan tries to make a pass across the middle and gets drilled by Adam Mair right after he delivers it. It's a pretty cheap and unnescessary hit and Ryan heads off again, seeming to grip his hand.
6:55 - HIller has a little trouble with a shot through traffic with Pominville right on the doorstep, but he covers just in time.
6:10 - Moen's slap shot from the wing on the rush hits the side of the net, but looked like it went in from certain angles.
5:05 - The top line works it again, as Getzlaf sends it low to Kunitz, whose pretty pass across the slot is missed by Perry. Looked like a sure goal for Anaheim.
3:28 - Marchant drops a pass to Montador, whose shot is stopped by Lalime, and Parros can't punch in the rebound.
1:11 - Forgot to mention Hedican is wearing a shield after breaking his nose the other night in Colorado.
0:00 - Off and running in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Not the prettiest of first periods for the Ducks, who only manage five shots on goal and come up empty. Meanwhile, Buff gets one in the second half of the period to take a 1-0 lead. One of the few positives from the period? Bobby Ryan
wasn't hurt that bad.
14:05 - Ryan jumps back on the ice, still trying to stretch that leg out.
14:00 - Bobby Ryan
is back on the Ducks bench, trying to stretch his leg (probably his knee).
13:58 - Getzlaf goes to a knee to try a one-timer from the inside of the right circle. It's reminiscent of his goal Saturday in Colorado, but this one is saved by Lalime with the stick and he dives on the loose puck. He pays the price though, getting cut across the wrist by Kunitz's skate. He goes to the bench for some help and returns between the pipes.
13:17 - BUFFALO GOAL - PATRICK KALETA - Bobby Ryan goes sliding awkwardly into the wall with Kaleta behind the Anaheim net, Ryan on the bottom of Kaleta. The puck springs loose and ends up bouncing in front of the net, where Kaleta pokes it under Hiller. Even worse, Ryan is down and has to be helped off the ice by teammates and Ducks trainer Tim Clark. He doesn't look like he's putting much weight on his right leg, which is not a good sign. We'll keep you posted. It's 1-0 Buffalo.
12:06 - As the Sabres try to dump the puck, it takes a strange bounce off the glass right to Andrew Peters on the wing. He rips a slap shot that Hiller dramatically gloves.
10:04 - Marchant does a nice job to pressure Mike Weber behind the net, ensuring that Parros takes away the puck. He tries to feed Drew Miller in front, but his one-timer caroms into the netting.
8:50 - Pronger drills a one-timer that Lalime snatches with the trapper.
8:20 - The Ducks escape when a couple Buffalo chances in front of the net go awry.
4:35 - Vanek whiffs on a one-timer try on the rush, eliciting a way-too-loud "Awww!" from the crowd. These Buffalo people are impressive, I hate to admit.
2:40 - Selanne, Ebbett and Ryan on the second line.
Another big Buffalo gathering tonight. And great news, they're right under where we're sitting. I'm so pleased.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center.
7:07 p.m. - Always keeping us guessing, Christina Reyes come out sans black-rimmed glasses for another stirring rendition of the anthem. Much shorter than Jennifer Hudson's 2 minute, 10-second version yesterday (which I won money on, guessing it would go over 2:01).
Starting Goaltenders - ANA Jonas Hiller
; BUF Patrick Lalime
Starting Skaters - ANA Chris Pronger, Brett Festerling
, George Parros
, Drew Miller, Todd Marchant
Scratches - Nathan McIver, Brendan Morrison, Samuel Pahlsson; BUF Jaroslav Spacek, Teppo Numminen, Clarke MacArthur, Andrej Sekera, Jochen Hecht
Marchant gets the start, his first game since Jan. 8 at Los Angeles, after being out with a finger injury. Morrison is a healthy scratch for just the second time this season (also Nov. 22 in Dallas). Pahlsson is a scratch with flu-like symptoms.