ANAHEIM - It had been three weeks since the Ducks last played a game at Honda Center and three months since they lost one. But the Colorado Avalanche made sure Anaheim’s first game back from the Olympic break was a tough one, beating the Ducks 4-3 to snap an 11-game home winning streak.
The Ducks, who hadn’t lost at home since December 6 vs. Ottawa, were done in by two Colorado third period goals 1:10 apart, and a late Scott Niedermayer tally was as close as the Ducks would get in their attempt to get the equalizer.
"We played one period of hockey," said a disappointed Ducks coach Randy Caryle. "We didn’t play very well after the first period. They turned it up. We stopped doing what we needed to do and started getting quick. We played too soft around the puck and some individuals had bad nights."
The Ducks traded Ryan Whitney to Edmonton earlier in the day for Lubomir Visnovsky, and the defenseman wasn’t able to join the team until tomorrow, leaving the Ducks with just five defenseman. That may have shown (although Niedermayer said, "I didn't really notice it") as an early 2-0 Anaheim lead was erased and Colorado went ahead for good with those two quick goals midway through the third.
The first came 8:09 into the period on the third Avs power play goal of the game, as Matt Duchene drew in a rebound off Jonas Hiller and slid it past the drawn-out goalie. Soon afterward, Colorado got on a rush following a Corey Perry giveaway and a Paul Stastny shot came off Hiller and was punched in by TJ Galiardi.
The Ducks drew to within a goal near the end of a power play following a Ruslan Salei double minor for high sticking, as Niedermayer put the puck on net and it was kicked in by defenseman Scott Hannan.
But Anaheim wouldn’t threaten again, as they put little pressure around the net, notably in a final minute when Hiller headed to the bench for an extra attacker.
Anaheim went in front on a power play goal by Jason Blake in the first and the 598th career score for Teemu Selanne off a nice Blake feed on a rush, after which things turned around in Colorado's favor.
"We were skating and taking care of the puck in the first period," Niedermayer said. "In the second, they came at us different and we started to turn it over. It just all the sudden seemed to their way. It’s disappointing when you come out like that and it comes out this way."
Anaheim’s 2-0 lead off those goals was erased on two power play strikes by the Avalanche. Chris Stewart pulled Colorado to within a goal by filling the net off a Paul Stastny feed. Peter Mueller (acquired from Phoenix earlier today) followed with a shot from the point that caromed off the body of Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski and got underneath Hiller.
The Ducks goalie was one of nine Ducks (including the departed Whitney and prospect Luca Sbisa) and three members of the Avs honored before the game for competing in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Anaheim had a chance to crawl within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but didn’t have quite enough to do it. The Ducks next play at Phoenix on Saturday night before a much-needed stretch of seven straight at home.
"Right now every game is important and the most important one was tonight," Hiller said. "It’s tough. We were close .We had a 2-0 lead and gave the game away. We have 19 games left and still have a lot of chances. We have to believe and play better next game."
20:00 - END OF GAME - Colorado gets two quick ones in the third and hangs on for the 4-3 victory, Anaheim's first home loss in the last 12.
19:58 - The Ducks battle for it in the Avs end, but can't put it on net as it's iced with 1.4 seconds left.
19:05 - Hiller races to the bench.
18:17 - Hiller makes a stop from in close on Duchene and smothers it. Ducks take timeout with 1:43 left.
16:55 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - SCOTT NIEDERMAYER - Ducks finally get one on the long power play as Niedermayer sends the puck on net from below the goal line and Scott Hannan, batting in front with Perry, kicks it under Anderson. The Ducks pull to within a goal with 3:05 left.
16:22 - Getzlaf alone in front of a nice Flash feed, but whiffs on the shot. Several opportunities missed for Anaheim.
15:57 - Getzlaf weaves to the middle, fires it just off Anderson and wide.
15:10 - Perry toe drags to the middle and somehow his backhand is stopped by an out-of-position Anderson. He's been both good and lucky tonight.
13:42 - Getzlaf just misses punching one in from point blank off a rebound, sending it just wide. Heartbreak.
13:32 - COL Penalty - Ruslan Salei, 4 min. (double minor) high sticking. Huge one for the Ducks.
13:01 - Ryan charges in on Anderson and nearly crosses over for the goal, but loses the handle.
11:23 - COL Penalty - Chris Durno, 2 min. holding the stick. Durno on Niedermayer. Much-needed power play for Anaheim.
9:19 - COLORADO GOAL - TJ GALIARDI - A Perry giveaway in the Colorado end results in an Avs rush, in which Stastny flings a shot from the wing that come off Hiller to Galiardi, who sends it through. It's a two-goal lead for Colorado, 4-2.
8:09 - COLORADO GOAL (POWER PLAY) - MATT DUCHENE - A Chris Stewart shot from the point comes hard off Hiller, where Duchene deflects it back off the drawn-out goalie, picks up the puck and sends it home. It's the 21st of the year for Newell Brown's nephew, most among NHL rookies. It's 3-2 Avs and the Ducks need to get it in gear.
7:35 - ANA Penalty - Steve Eminger, 2 min. delay of game. Hiller with a nice stop off a shot by Ryan stoa on the rush, but as it comes off him, Eminger swats it over the glass behind the net.
5:05 - Great move by Wiz to hesitate with the shot off a Perry pass and fire from the slot, but Anderson was ready for it.
4:18 - COL Penalty - Peter Mueller, 2 min. tripping. Marchant's hustle draws the minor as he chases the puck against Mueller and spills to the ice. Let's just say, we'll take it.
4:05 - ANA Penalty - Steve Eminger, 2 min. tripping. Eminger tries to imped Chris Stewart's progress into the zone, but takes it a little too far.
1:30 - Blake nearly gets another, going around the net for a wraparound, but Anderson dives to make the stop. Ouch.
0:28 - Penalty by Blake that carried over from the second expires.
0:00 - Here we go in the third.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Not a good session for the Ducks, who give up two power play goals and are outshot 14-3 during one stretch. It's 2-2.
18:28 - ANA Penalty - Jason Blake, 2 min. hooking. Fighting to recover the puck in the Anaheim zone, Blake hooks down Ryan Wilson. He doesn't like the call, but it looked like a hook.
15:42 - COLORADO GOAL (POWER PLAY) - PETER MUELLER - John-MIchael Liles keeps the play alive by diving to hold it in the zone. From there, Mueller sends a shot from the point that hits Wisniewski in front and gets under Hiller. Both he and Wisniewski snap their heads back in disgust and it's 2-2 on the second power play goal of the game for Colorado.
14:57 - ANA Penalty - Mike Brown, 2 min. charging. Brown gets a little aggressive. Crowd does not love the call.
13:32 - TJ Galiardi with a one-timer from in deep, but Hiller is there. Too many chances for Colorado.
13:00 - Ducks dodge a bullet as Duchene takes a pass alone in front, but Hiller makes a fine kick save.
12:31 - ANA Penalty - Kyle Chipchura, 2 min. unsportsmanlike conduct and 5 min. fighting and COL Penalty - Matt Hendricks, 2 min. roughing and 5 min. fighting. Chipchura starts pushing and shoving with Ryan Wilson behind the Avs net, drops the gloves and looks bemused as Wilson walks away from the fight. Chipchura actually stands there alone before Hendricks rushes over and takes him on. It's a couple of punches from each before Hendricks pulls Chipchura to the ice. Replays show Ryan Carter turning and saying something snide to Wilson while the fight is going on, and I'm guessing it involved something about manhood.
9:10 - COLORADO GOAL (POWER PLAY) - CHRIS STEWART - Matt Duchene, nephew of Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown, feeds down low to Stastny at the extended goal line. He shuttles the puck across the top of the crease, where Stewart sends it into the open net. It's 2-1 Ducks.
8:55 - ANA Penalty - Sheldon Brookbank, 2 min. hooking.
Tonight's AAA Season Ticket Holder of the Game, featured on the Honda Vision, is Steve Webb, also known as the Rod Stewart lookalike who dances in the aisles when he's put on the screen. And a Rod Stewart song is playing as he's featured. Good night for the deejay tonight.
8:40 - Ducks nearly get a tip goal off a Niedermayer pass.
4:37 - ANAHEIM GOAL - TEEMU SELANNE - The Ducks are very close to offside on the rush as Koivu sprints up right wing, then feeds to Blake in the slot. He catches and backhands a pass to Selanne, who easily dumps it into the open net as Anderson lunged at Blake. It's No. 598 for the Flash and it's 2-0 Ducks.
Can't watch Craig Anderson without thinking of this photo and this photo from his days in Florida. Someone should check on how often Anderson gives up goals less than one minute after TV timeouts.
3:35 - A broken Colorado stick results in Ryan alone on the breakaway, but his wrist shot from in deep goes off Anderson. Nice stop.
0:00 - Off and running in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - And a nice one for Anaheim, as they outshoot the Avs 14-2 and Blake pots one for the 1-0 lead.
17:39 - ANA Penalty - Ryan Carter and COL Penalty - Darcy Tucker, 2 min. roughing. Cartrer objects to a couple of cross checks after the whistle by Tucker (of the Darcy Tucker Band) and gives him a swift punch in the chest. They both get the bin.
16:11 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - JASON BLAKE - On the man advantage, Ryan feeds from the edge of the right wing circle to Blake near the post, and he bats it off Anderson and then underneath him for the goal. It's 1-0 Ducks.
15:40 - Perry slings it from the slot on the rush. Nice save Anderson.
14:41 - COL Penalty - Cody McLeod, 2 min. hooking. A little bit too much behind the Anaheim net.
It's trivia time and "T.J." (adorned by three Power Players) is asked who got the goal on Selanne's assist that made him the highest-scoring Olympian of all time. From a choice of three, he guesses Olli Jokinen and he's ... wrong. It's Kimmo Timonen. Honest mistake, I say.
14:16 - Just two shots on goal for the Avs, one on that power play. Ducks have niner. (Did I hear a "niner in there?)
Wish comes true as during the Ducks in Focus segment, as Dan Sexton is revealed, guess which song is playing?
12:16 - ANA Penalty - Brett Festerling, 2 min. hooking. Kind of a funny moment after the whistle, as Perry doesn't realize the official is in his peripheral vision, and he's so startled he falls down.
11:25 - Selanne receives from Koivu in the slot, and can't connect on a backhand. Still, those guys would be good on a national team together.
10:05 - Nice pass from the wing by Getzlaf into the slot, where Sexton just misses on a one-timer. Getzlaf to Sexton, not seen too often.
7:30 - Sexton builds some room for himself and fires from the high slot into Anderson's chest. We go into the first timeout immediately after. I would have liked to hear "SexyBack" by Timberlake there, but alas it doesn't happen.
6:23 - First shot of the game for Colorado, by Peter Mueller, is kicked away by Hiller.
4:57 - Perry gets in deep, but denied by Anderson. He picks up the rebound, feeds Getzlaf in front and he's stopped too.
4:15 - COL Penalty - Paul Stastny, 2 min. holding the stick. U.S. Olympian gets caught.
4:13 - Getzlaf fires on net from the top of the circle, knocked away.
2:15 - Sexton on the ice for the first time, first time in awhile. Good to have him back.
1:50 - Chance in the crease, but Blake can't push it through.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center for the first time in three weeks. I'm giddy.
7:09 p.m. - Very cool pregame tribute to the seven remaining Ducks Olympians, as kid hockey players come out skating with the flags of each country represented. That's followed by still shots of every Ducks Olympian (players in color, backgrounds in black and white) with a soundtrack of the TV calls of their highlights. Goosebump City. Wow.
The Avs Olympians are introduced on the bench (in a classy move) first, with former Duck Ruslan Salei getting the loudest response. Lubomir Visnovsky and Ryan Whitney (traded for each other today) are then mentioned in absentia, as is Ducks prospect Luca Sbisa.
Then the Ducks are introduced, each one skating out to a spot behind the kids with their respective flags: Hiller, then Koivu, then Selanne (huge ovation), then Ryan (wrapping his arms around the kid in front of him), then Perry, then Getzlaf, then the captain (stick-tapping the back of the kid's legs). They come together for a photo to polish it off. Just about as cool as it gets.
7:07 p.m. - Tonight's anthem singer is introduced as recording artist Riley Weston. I'll take their word for it. If it's not Swift or Underwood, I don't really know them. Starters in bold/italics. Scratches crossed out.