ANAHEIM – The first chapter of what could be a do-or-die homestand for the Anaheim Ducks started with promise but ended in heartbreak.
After carrying a two-goal lead over the visiting Montreal Canadiens for most of the final period, the Ducks gave up two in the final 1:50 of regulation and ultimately fell in a shootout, 4-3 at Honda Center.
"With the way we played early in the game, we should have been able to get these two points tonight," said Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer. "They just hung around and waited for a couple of mistakes. They took advantage of it."
Jonas Hiller, who had 40 saves in regulation and overtime, appeared to secure the victory in the third round of the shootout when he initially stopped Brian Gionta’s wrist shot. But Hiller’s momentum carried him backward into the net, where he eventually dropped the puck behind him over the stripe. A quick replay determined the attempt was good, and Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec sealed Anaheim’s fate a round later when he wristed it past Hiller glove side.
"It was play where I thought Hillsy had it," said Niedermayer. "Then, once he goes to relax and thinks the play is over, it drops out. It’s unfortunate, but obviously we shouldn’t in that position either."
It was the continuation of an agonizing turn of events for the Ducks, who allowed the Canadiens to send the game to overtime on an Andrei Markov goal with just 10.7 remaining and the Habs skating up a man after sending goalie Jaroslav Halak to the bench. Markov one-timed a Benoit Pouliot feed from the low circle and beat Hiller to tie it. Not long prior, Bobby Ryan missed a chance to put the game away when he fired wide at the empty net from the Montreal blue line.
The Canadiens had pulled to within a goal with 1:50 left in regulation when Gionta scored following a Ryan Getzlaf giveaway in the corner and a Dominic Moore drop pass.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for an Anaheim team that jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period thanks to goals from Corey Perry, Scott Niedermayer and new Duck Lubomir Visnovsky.
Perry broke the ice with a goal on the rush, swerving into the slot on the rush and firing a wrist shot just inside the far post.
Exactly four minutes later, Visnovsky scored unassisted on a Ducks power play, slaloming between three Habs into the attacking zone and sending a shot through from the slot. The goal drew a huge roar from the crowd in Visnovsky’s second game in a Ducks uniform, having been acquired Wednesday from Edmonton in a trade that involved Ryan Whitney.
The Ducks got more offensive output from the defense with 52.8 seconds left in the first, as Niedermayer took in a nice Getzlaf feed from the right wing wall and Niedermayer calmly backhanded it past goalie Carey Price on the glove side.
Price was replaced in net by Halak to start the second, and Halak didn’t give up a goal on 21 Anaheim shots through the rest of regulation and overtime. That helped Montreal climb all the way back, starting with the only goal of the second period, as Plekanec got on the breakaway following a Getzlaf giveaway and wristed it past Hiller 7:48 into the session.
Neither team found the net the rest of the way until the Habs got their two in the stretch run of regulation.
"I’m not happy with the outcome," said Saku Koivu, playing his first game against a Montreal team with which he spent his first 14 years in the league, 10 as team captain. "The way we came out in the first period, up 3-0, we were really confident that we could get the next goal and put the game away. They fought back and got two late goals. When you lose that way, it’s pretty disappointing, even though we got the one point.
"Especially for myself, I’ve waited for this game for quite awhile. I’m happy it’s done now, but I’m disappointed that we lost that point."
The Ducks, who had taken a rough 4-0 loss in Phoenix last night, missed an opportunity to pull to within five points of the eighth spot in the Western Conference (currently held by Detroit).
"It’s pretty disappointing right now," Niedermayer said. "We just need to prepare and compete as hard as we can in the next game."
Added Koivu, "After a big win or loss, you just have to be able to re-group, forget the past and get ready for the next one. Where we’re at in the standings right now and the points we need, we can’t lose any extra points here. We have to be ready for the next one. These next two weeks are going to be critical for us."
The Ducks have gone 6-4-1 in the last 11 games and 14-8-1 in the last 23.
At HOME, Anaheim has earned standings points in 12 of the last 13 games (11-1-1), 13 of the last 14 (11-1-2) and in 17 of the last 19 (14-1-4).
In his last five contests at HOME, Jonas Hiller has gone 3-1-1 with a 2.37 GAA (12 GA/304 MIN) and .937 SV% (179-of-191). In his last 11 starts overall, Hiller has posted a 6-4-1 record with a 2.61 GAA (29 GA/666 MIN) and .924 SV% (354-of-383).
With a goal tonight, Corey Perry has earned 4-7=11 points in the last 10 games. In addition, Perry has a current 10-game point streak at HOME (4-8=12).
Scott Niedermayer has earned points in six of the last seven games (3-5=8) and has scored goals in three of the last four games (3-1=4).
Lubomir Visnovksky scored his first goal as a Duck tonight and his 11th of the season.
Aaron Ward also picked up his first point as a Duck tonight, assisting on Corey Perry’s goal.
Tonight’s attendance was 15,883.
MTL Tomas Plekanec's attempt is GOOD, as he wrists it past Hiller for the winner.
ANA James Wisniewski's attempt is NO GOOD, as he dekes to his forehand and loses the handle.
MTL Brian Gionta's attempt is GOOD, as he wrists it into Hiller and a second later he drops it over the stripe. A quick video review determines he never had control and it's a goal.
ANA Teemu Selanne's attempt is NO GOOD, as he wrists over the net.
MTL Scott Gomez's attempt is NO GOOD, as he wrists it into Hiller's glove.
ANA Ryan Getzlaf's attempt is GOOD. Getzlaf picks up speed and forehands it under Halak.
MTL Andre Markov's attempt is NO GOOD, as he wrists it off the boards.
ANA Corey Perry's attempt is NO GOOD. He goes way wide, holds the puck as he slides to the forehand and shoots it off Halak.
5:00 - END OF OVERTIME - Shootout time.
4:41 - Blake cuts inside from the wing and fires into Halak, who has yet to give up a goal since coming in at the start of the second.
2:18 - Scary moment and Visnovsky falls down and loses the puck, sending Kostitsyn on a breakaway, but Hiller corrals the wrister.
1:24 - Visnovsky a high one-timer from the point, gloved by Halak.
0:32 - Niedermayer nearly does it again in OT, taking a Koivu pass on the rush and just missing from sending it under Halak.
0:00 - We start an overtime that Anaheim never wanted.
20:00 - END OF REGULATION - The Ducks give up two late ones and we're going to overtime.
19:49 - ANA Penalty - Corey Perry and James Wisniewski and MTL Penalty - Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, 2 min. each roughing. After the goal is scored, Perry, who had beef with Markov from earlier, punches him in the face as he celebrates the goal. That leads to a mini brawl in which four players take roughing minors.
19:49 - MONTREAL GOAL - ANDREI MARKOV - With the Habs up a man, Benoit Pouliot drops the puck to Markov in the circle, and Markov one-times it over Hiller's shoulder. We're tied with 10.7 left.
19:20 - Ryan picks up a loose puck at the blue line, but misses the net.
18:40 - Empty net for Montreal.
18:10 - MONTREAL GOAL - BRIAN GIONTA - Getzlaf gives the puck away in the corner to Dominic Moore, who drops to Gionta in the circle and he fires it high past Hiller. It's 3-2 Ducks now and it's nervous time.
17:30 - Ducks staying aggressive, firing on Halak plenty.
16:20 - Great tic-tac-toe play ends with a Niedermayer pass to Perry on the doorstep, but Halak with a nice save.
15:18 - On the rush, Selanne feathers a beautiful feed to Koivu, but his redirect hits Halak dead center.
14:12 - Timeout with 5:48 left, Ducks still holding on to that two-goal cushion.
13:30 - Hiller with two absolutely gargantuan stops, blocking a one-timer by Gomez and staying in position to deny the rebound try by Pouliot. (On second glance, the rebound try was off the post, but let's credit Hiller anyway.)
12:34 - Wiz back on the bench.
Detroit won and Nashville lost, so Detroit pulls into the seventh spot and the Ducks need this one to get within 6 of the Preds in eighth.
12:00 - Wisniewski looks like he hurt his arm and he's in the locker room.
11:45 - Give and go between Selanne and Getzlaf, but 8 fires high.
10:00 - Hiller with a kick save in a crowd. The French radio guys to our right seemed to like it.
9:37 - Hiller takes in a shot from the point in traffic.
6:00 - Brookbank dumps it in and it takes that crazy kick off the glass, skittering across the crease with Halak having gone behind the net. Close one.
5:46 - Huge kill for the Ducks, as the Habs were all over it.
4:55 - Ducks escape when Hamrlik is in position for the one-timer, but the puck eludes him.
3:46 - ANA Penalty - Jason Blake, 2 min. hooking. Kostitsyn goes speeding into the zone and gets hooked from behind by Blake.
0:50 - Halak takes a chance and comes waaay out to bat away a puck that Getzlaf is chasing. In the process, he takes out Spacek's knees and he goes spilling over him. He's down for a little while, gets the trainer out there and skates off gingerly. Scary play.
0:00 - Off and running in the third, Ducks gripping a two-goal lead.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Ducks escape from a mostly mediocre second period with a two-goal lead.
19:26 - A little bit of pushing and shoving around Hiller after he smothers the puck in a crowd, notably between Visnovsky and Mathieu Darche. No penalties.
16:30 - Ryan hammers Roman Hamrlik in front of the Montreal bench, with the linesman taking some punishment on the play. Hamrlik pushes back, but that's about it as the puck heads the other way on a Ducks rush.
14:10 - Hiller with a big stop on a shot through traffic.
7:48 - MONTREAL GOAL - TOMAS PLEKANEC - Getzlaf turns the puck over in the offensive zone, then is out of position as Plekanec takes a long up-ice pass from Josh Gorges. Getzlaf chases Plekanec on the breakaway, but can't get there before he sends a wrist shot past Hiller. Ducks lead cut to 3-1.
Montreal leads the league in Jaroslavs, by the way, with two.
5:00 - This time Ryan gets drilled by a deflected puck off an Eminger shot. He's not feeling too solid either.
4:40 - Chipchura rips a shot from the circle off a great Sexton drop pass, but nails a screening Mike Brown in the back of the leg. That looked like it stung.
Have I ever mentioned that the dress code sign in this press box has a line that says, "No thongs"? In this case, it means flip-flops, but it always makes me giggle.
0:00 - Here we go in the second, the Habs replacing Carey with Jaroslav Halak.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - The Ducks flip the script on a slow start and score three in the last 11 minutes of the third to jump out in front 3-0.
19:07 - ANAHEIM GOAL - SCOTT NIEDERMAYER - With the Ducks on a mini-rush, Getzlaf skates with the puck while hugging the wall on the right wing. He finds Niedermayer, who has managed to sneak free into the slot, and he calmly moves the puck to his backhand and sends it past Price's glove. Third in the last four games for Niedermayer (separated by an Olympic break) and the Ducks lead it 3-0 with 52.8 left in the first.
16:15 - Away from the play, Getzlaf thinks about going at it with Hal Gill, but thinks better of it. Gill by the way, is about 6-7, 250.
Talk about playing a back-to-back, the tennis balls are here tonight, AND I spotted them last night across the rink from me at last night's game in Phoenix. Good for them.
It's trivia time, and RJ from Irvine is asked which team Aaron Ward was playing for when he scored the first goal in the history of Honda Center. He guesses Red Wings from the three choices and he's ... correct. In addition to a Ducks prize pack, he wins a video game called God of War 3. Okay.
14:02 - Koivu makes a nice stop-and-change-of-direction move in the slot to make some room for himself against his old team, then slaps a shot that Price kicks away.
12:54 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - LUBOMIR VISNOVSKY - With the power play threatening to run out, Visnovsky takes matters into his own hands, weaving into the attacking zone between at least three Habs, then whipping a wrist shot from the slot that eludes Price stick side. Huge reaction from the crowd for the new guy, who scores his first as a Duck in just his second game after being acquired Wednesday from Edmonton. Ducks lead it 2-0.
11:34 - Getzlaf rips a one-timer from the straightaway point, but Price snatches it away with the mitt.
11:11 - MTL Penalty - Tom Pyatt, 2 min. hooking. Selanne draws it, fighting for a bouncing puck in the Montreal end and getting hooked from behind by Pyatt.
8:54 - ANAHEIM GOAL - COREY PERRY - Right off the successful penalty kill, the Ducks get their top line on a rush, with Perry taking it up the left wing off a pass from Getzlaf. Perry makes a quick cut toward the slot, where he slings a wrist shot past Price on the glove side and just inside the far post. Big-time turn of momentum for the Ducks as they score on just their third shot (against 11 for Montreal) and lead it 1-0.
7:44 - Hiller reaches out to make a nice glove snag off a shot from the right wing circle. Ducks being outshot 9-2 early.
6:38 - ANA Penalty - Steve Eminger, 2 min. hooking. Not long after killing the first penalty, the Ducks take another, this time in the offensive zone.
4:24 - ANA Penalty - Scott Niedermayer, 2 min. interference. Niedermayer bumps Moore in the defensive zone. Randy Carlyle's reaction tells us that he wouldn't have made that call.
3:52 - Hiller a big stop as Kostitsyn has too much room in the slot.
3:40 - Aaron Ward slides to block a shot by Markov off a turnover. He was 15th in the league in blocked shots when the Ducks acquired him earlier this week.
0:50 - Selanne gets some room in the slot off a Blake feed, but he's pestered enough to shoot it wide of the net.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center, in pretty much a must-win game for the home team.
5:07 p.m. - Joseph Kaiser, with a booming, operatic voice and a slight resemblance to Dustin Penner, belts out the Canadian and American anthems, singing the first one in a mix of French and English. Nicely done. Starters in bold/italics. Scratches crossed out.