April has arrived and there are very few games left in the regular season. X’s are starting to appear as teams begin to clinch playoff spots. There are fewer teams that have clinched in the West than the East, but one of those teams, the Sharks, continued their push to winning another Pacific Division title by defeating the Ducks 4-2.
Things started off well for Anaheim, with a two goal lead at the end of the first. Bobby Ryan got a perfect pass from Corey Perry to make it 1-0 at 3:21 of the first period. Perry, who was the NHL player of the month in March, had no shots on goal the entire game, but did have two assists.
Lubomir Visnovsky added to the total at 11:15 on the power play. His goal gave him 17 on the year and the most goals scored by any defensemen in a single season in Ducks history.
After the first period, the Sharks regrouped and the controlled the play for much of the remaining time.
Dany Heatley started the second period off well. He got San Jose on the board at 2:01 and gave the Sharks fans, who had been silenced in the first, something to shout about. Patrick Marleau tied up the game at 12:45 on a strange play. A 3 on 2 rush towards the Ducks net had a puck rebound off the face of Ryan, who went down, but the Sharks were able to finish things off behind Ray Emery.
The game looked like it had the potential for overtime, with every bit of space being battled for. Then the Sharks got their sole power play of the game and Devin Setoguchi gave San Jose their first lead of the game at 14:39 of the third period.
“I was going to shoot the first one from Patty,” Setoguchi said. “I didn’t think he was going to pass it to me and I wasn’t ready for it. I knew Dan would pump and give it back to me. I had a chance earlier where I had a miss-hit and it went off the pad. I knew I had to try to get it upstairs, and I got one.”
Coach Randy Carlyle was not pleased with either the penalty call or a non-call a couple minutes earlier on Douglas Murray, who took a run at Visnovsky.
“(Jason) Blake has no helmet on, and (Ryane) Clowe hits him in the head with his stick. That’s what starts it,” said Carlyle, clearly upset. “Two players are kind of mugging one another and we come out of it with a disadvantage. So I felt it’s a chicken call in a tight hockey game. … And then Doug Murray takes a run at Visnovsky from halfway across the ice. I counted the steps, he took five steps, I just watched it. He comes halfway across the rink to run at the guy. But that’s OK.”
Visnovsky left with what appeared to be a shoulder injury, the body part that hit the boards first thanks to the hard nosed Swedish defenseman. The Ducks had a tough time coming back to tie things up with Visnovsky’s absence. An empty net goal by Marleau at 19:19 sealed the deal for San Jose.
Emery, who made 29 saves, saw his first loss of the season after seven wins in net. The netminder, who continues to amaze since coming back from hip surgery a year ago, was also nominated by the Ducks for the Masterton Trophy this season.
The Ducks have nothing but Pacific Division rivals the rest of the way, starting with Dallas on Sunday at home. A defeat of Dallas would give the Ducks a coveted “x” by their name in the standings, meaning they would have a playoff spot this year, a vast improvement over missing the post season last year.
To get that x they will have to work a bit harder than they did tonight. 60 minutes of hockey would be a good start.