Although the Olympic hangover seems to be finally gone, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens did not help the Ducks in their quest to earn a playoff spot. Only one point earned is not enough and the Ducks let another one slip away.
Both teams played the night before. Anaheim was shut-out in Phoenix and Montreal defeated the Kings in Los Angeles. While the Ducks got the start they wanted, Montreal came back with a vengeance at the end of the game.
After two trips to the penalty box by Scott Niedermayer and Steve Eminger, Corey Perry turned things around with a goal at 8:54 that just made it to the far post behind Carey Price. Defenseman Aaron Ward earned his first point as a Duck with one of the assists. It was just the third shot on goal for the Ducks.
Fellow newbie, Lubomir Visnovsky, showed what he can do on the power play by stickhandling through significant Canadien traffic and finishing things off at 12:54. Seeing as the Ducks neglected to convert on seven power play opportunities the night before, it was about time one went in. First point for Visnovsky as a Duck as well.
With time running out, Niedermayer made it 3-0 at 19:07. Ryan Getzlaf got the puck from the boards to Niedermayer, who was right in front of Price. Price finished off the period, but that was it for the netminder. Jaroslav Halak finished off the job for the Canadiens, instead of having a well-deserved night off.
The Canadiens got on the board in the second period thanks to a turnover by Getzlaf at the blue line. Josh Gorges intercepted Getzlaf’s pass and sent it to Tomas Plekanec, who streaked off down the ice and put the puck neatly over Jonas Hiller’s shoulder at 7:48. Hiller got to see another one of those shots from Plekanec later in the game in the shootout. That one proved the end of the game.
Despite giving the Canadiens three power plays (with a 31.1% success rate on the road, that should have been good enough for one goal for Montreal), the Ducks were able to kill every one of them.
Montreal persisted and hung in there, taking advantage of turnovers and mistakes. Brian Gionta brought the Habs back within one goal at 18:50. Can you say nervous moments for the final 1:50 of the game?
With Halak vacating the net for the extra attacker, the Ducks could not hit the empty target, but Andrei Markov did what all Ducks fans did not want to see – tie up the game. Only 10.7 seconds remained. Shades of Wednesday’s game against Colorado, when the Ducks blew a 2-0 lead. Only the Ducks did not even get a point out of that one.
Overtime was not a dull, staid affair. There were plenty of shots (5 for Montreal, 6 for Anaheim) and plenty of chances for each side to forgo the shootout. Neither Hiller nor Halak refused to budge, so a shootout it was to determine who would get the extra point.
Getzlaf had the only goal in the shootout for the Ducks. It appeared that Hiller was going to be successful in stopping all three Montreal shots until one of the strangest things occurred. Hiller seemed to stopped Gionta’s shot, but did not know where the puck was. In standing up and lifting his arm, the puck fell out of his equipment and went into the net behind him. It was actually reviewed and determined that indeed, the goal was good and the shootout would continue.
James Wisniewski, who had been successful in his two previous shootout attempts, perhaps had a bit too much baby powder and didn’t even get his shot off. Plekanec, who already had one roofed shot behind Hiller, put in the second to end the game.
This is not what the Ducks had in mind when they were aiming for a playoff spot, and are now six points behind the 8th and final spot and slipping further.
In other notes: It was the first game for Saku Koivu against his former team, after spending 13 seasons in Montreal, 10 of them as captain.