The Ducks have been stuck in reverse for the past two games and needed to shift back to forward. Getting defenseman Cam Fowler back, after missing six games with a broken nose and stiff neck, certainly helped. An infusion of youngsters (Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri) who were brought up due to a rash of injuries, also provided a boost. More on Palmieri later.
Anaheim and Tampa Bay have had diametrically opposed seasons – the Ducks struggling and the Lightning off to a great start with a new GM (Steve Yzerman) and coach (Guy Boucher). In the first period you would not know it.
The Ducks were remarkedly well disciplined and despite a double minor for high sticking, the Ducks spent more time with the extra man, being handed three consecutive power plays. On their second attempt, Teemu Selanne put the Ducks on the board at 12:22, adding yet another power play goal to his growing tally.
Tampa Bay got back in stride in the second period, tying the game on a shot from Blair Jones that found its way behind Jonas Hiller at 2:38.
In a game that could have been hideously lopsided, things were remarkably even. Any team had the chance to win the game.
Steven Stamkos gave the Lightning their first lead of the game just :21 seconds into the third on a carry-over power play. There was no doubt why Stamkos was the player of the month in October, off to a blazing start and now with 10 goals in his first 11 games.
“We expected a tough game,” said Stamkos. “It just took us too long to wake up. We got a point, but it wasn’t our best effort.”
The rest of the period was typical for the Ducks – plenty of effort but seemingly just short of going in the net. And then came Palmieri. Playing in his first NHL game, Palmieri had a couple of good chances earlier in the game. He notched his first NHL goal at 15:40 to tie up the game, giving the Ducks at least a point by going to overtime.
“It was unbelievable,” said a happy Palmieri, who had just gotten his picture taken with his first major memorabilia. “I really don’t have any words right now. It hasn’t really sunk in. I’m just excited.”
In the extra period Selanne, who had a huge game, assisted on the game winner with a beautiful pass to Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf easily put the puck in the net at 2:53 and was promptly mauled by joyous teammates.
“I just had to put it in the net,” said Getzlaf. “(Selanne) did the rest. He showed his speed and showed his legs. He’ll probably claim it was his two days off this week. He was fresh and ready to go.”
Those 40 year old legs deserve a day here and there, especially if they are always followed up with efforts like that one. His goal and assist gives him 1,274 points, tied for 33rd all time with Al MacInnis.
To say the Ducks needed two points would be an understatement. At this point, every bit helps.
“We played against a hockey club that can really skate and plays with a lot of confidence right now,” said coach Randy Carlyle. “We’ve had our fair share of turmoil and inconsistency, but tonight was one of our more inspired games. Overall our effort was way up there and we should feel good about ourselves.”
If the Ducks are capable of another effort like this on Friday night, they just might have a chance for two more points against Pittsburgh.