It was a day late, but the Anaheim Ducks finally got the win they wanted. In a dream world, Teemu Selanne would have had the game winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres in Helsinki. They got a 4-1 defeat by a well prepared Sabres team instead.
After coming 5600 miles to support your team, a loss was not the way to end the evening and our time in Finland.
Getting to Sweden was more than a change of pace. The Ducks regrouped, refocused and played the way they should have in Helsinki. A 2-1 shootout victory felt good for the Ducks and just as good for the fans.
The game was chippy in the beginning, but eventually settled down. Unlike the previous evening, the Ducks were able to score first. Andrew Cogliano got his first as a Duck at 9:26 of the first period, tipping in Andrew Gordon’s shot. Both Gordon and Devante Smith-Pelly looked like kids who had been handed the keys to the candy store at getting their first NHL points.
That third line is going to be crucial to the Ducks success this season. Without a third line, there is too much reliance on the top 6 forwards. The third (and fourth) lines will have to chip in. With Cogliano, Gordon and Smith-Pelly having developed some nice chemistry throughout training camp, it seems that there is the potential for a legitimate third line this season.
Henrik Lundqvist, clearly the local darling in Sweden as Teemu is in Finland, was spectacular in net for the Rangers. He made amazing save after amazing save, including using his forehead like a soccer player to bump the puck away. His gymnastics in net kept his team in the game throughout.
Finally Brad Richards was able to put a puck past Jonas Hiller, who appeared headed for a shut out. Richards roofed the puck over Hiller’s shoulder with a beautiful shot to tie the game up in the third period with just 2:15 left to go.
Hiller, who was less than stellar against Buffalo, was much more solid this time around, stopping 14 of 15 shots by the Rangers. From the start, he looked steady in net, which also helped his teammates stick to their game as well.
Nothing else being decided in the overtime period, the game had to go to a shootout. A lousy way to end a game, but certainly a fan favorite.
You could tell the media would love to have a great story of either a game winner from a Swede or finally Selanne. That did not happen. More important was the win than the story. Bobby Ryan got the puck past Lundqvist in the fourth round of the shootout. Hiller’s final save on Anisamov sealed the game for the Ducks. Even funnier was the fact that Bobby nearly fanned on his shot. He barely got the heel of his stick on the puck, which surprised both Lundqvist and Ryan as the puck snuck its way in.
It does not matter how it goes in, but that it does. The biggest grin on Ryan’s face said it all.
The Ducks now head home from Sweden, while the Road Crew enjoys one more day of sight seeing and Swedish culture. Anaheim has to recover from jet lag and prepare for the home opener against San Jose on Friday.
It has been a wonderful Scandinavian adventure, although not perfect, but pretty darn close. Continuing positive momentum in Anaheim will go a long way to having a good start and a good season.