You could say I was nothing but anxious even before the puck was dropped. After all, the Sharks have four players ranked among the top eight in points and remain unbeaten. Did I mention that Patrick Marleau, a player who’s a known Duck killer, already has nine goals in six games?. I was hoping the hoop-la surrounding Anaheim’s Emerson Etem –who was making his NHL debut– would spark something on the bench. It did on his first shift when he and teammate Kyle Palmieri had good scoring opportunities in the same sequence. Besides that, Etem was like any other normal human would be in his first professional game; invisible and shaky.
The entire first period was a shooting gallery for the Ducks, but the first goal was from none other than Joe Pavelski — who already has an alarming 11 points this season. The goal came off of a 2-on-1 break pass from Joe Thornton and went in glove side on Jonas Hiller. The Ducks out-shot the Sharks 13-4 after one, but they had nothing to show for it.
As the second period got under way, San Jose came out with more energy. Things slowly tilted the other way when the Sharks committed the first two penalties of the game. Shortly after the second penatly had expired, the Ducks got on the scoreboard. Francois Beauchemin let a shot off from a sharp angle and it found its way behind Antti Niemi. Just shy of a minute later, captain Ryan Getzlaf made a threaded pass to Matt Beleskey who ripped it into the top of the net. All of a sudden, the Ducks’ shots were paying dividends.
Following the lead, Anaheim maintained somewhat of an aggressive forecheck and got solid defense from Beauch and Sheldon Souray. Time was winding down in the third and my nerves still weren’t at ease. Ducks’ fans are anxious about one-goal leads late in the third because the team is notorious for giving up late goals. As I finished tinkering with my shot-sheet for the highlight, my supervisor printed it out and basically said, “This game looks done.” I of course replied with, “Don’t jinx it. The Ducks could easily give this up.” I had spoken too quickly. In a matter of seconds, Logan Couture let off a wrister that trickled in to tie the game at two.
As the game headed to overtime, both goaltenders keept their teams in it. Hiller had a good save on Marleau and Niemi had one on Corey Perry, so it went to a shootout. Coach Todd Mclellan elected to have his team go first. Who did he chose to start the shootout? Just a player who hasn’t registered a single point this season; Michal Handzus. Of course, Handzus lifts one up off the crossbar and in and that’s all she wrote for the shootout. Bobby Ryan, Perry, and Selanne came up short and so did the team.
Anaheim out-shot San Jose by nearly a 2:1 margin with 30-18 shots. A positive coming out of this was it was the Ducks’ best performance on the road. It’d be easy to say their wins in Canada were, but they weren’t really challenged. Tonight, the Ducks’ played against the hottest team in the league and they stayed in it for the entire game. Also, the Ducks only gave the Sharks two chances on the power play, during which they didn’t allow them to convert. That’s huge for a team that has been fishing pucks out of their nets after penalty kills. Unfortunately, the Ducks haven’t gotten a goal on special teams since their season opener. They couldn’t sustain any pressure with the extra man. Beauchemin was clutch and Souray was using his reach and taking shots throughout the game, which is also great to see.
The Ducks earned a hard-fought point and now have to look forward to a home game against Zach Parise/Ryan Suter & Co; also known as the Minnesota Wild. After the game last night coach Bruce Boudreau stated, “I think we’ve got to be proud of the way we played tonight. We outplayed them.” I’m sure the rest of the team would agree as they move forward.
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