Anaheim Ducks win with special teams play

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Thursday Night the Anaheim Ducks started their road to the Stanley Cup. Standing in their way are the Winnipeg Jets who haven’t been in the playoffs in their brief history since moving to Canada from Atlanta, Georgia.

Winnipeg Jets fans
Winnipeg Jets fans

The previous Winnipeg Jets team moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes, but even that team never made it past the Division Final. The Jets are hungry for Stanley Cup in Winnipeg.

Last Season the Ducks were one of the top seeds in the playoffs, but in the second round they met the eventual Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings. This year Bruce Boudreau and his team are determined to get past all their opponents in the finals. This is their year to take that cup to the beach in June.

It would be a remarkable feat if the Stanley Cup returned to Southern California and Anaheim feels like they will do it.

Both national anthems (Canada and the U.S.) will be played at all the games in this series.
Both national anthems (Canada and the U.S.) will be played at all the games in this series.

This was a fantastic start of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Anaheim Ducks. The Honda Center was a sea of Orange inside and out and as fans entered the building they were given Orange Ducks T-shirts. They would do everything they could to make playing in the Honda Center very difficult for the Jets.

One thing most people don’t know about NHL hockey (unless they are hockey fans: we often see the national anthems from both Canada and the United States played before games, much more so than in baseball — or any other sport. Canada is the cultural home of hockey and right now there are seven NHL teams in the Great White North. So that was the case Thursday at Honda Center, before the game started.

And it started great for Anaheim. From the moment the puck dropped it was a tough, physical game, a big plus for Winnipeg, a physically larger team than Anaheim. But the Ducks got the first goal, a 49-foot slap shot by Sami Vatanen, with assists by Corey Perry and Ryan Getslaff. But less than a minute later the Winnipeg Jets scored on a slap shot by Adam Lowery.

The game was tied going into the second period, when the Jets scored on a wrist shot by Drew Stafford.

Anaheim Ducks fan
Anaheim Ducks fan

For most of the first two periods the visiting Winnipeg jets controlled the ice. Most of the game was played in the Ducks’ zone and the Ducks couldn’t keep the puck on the other side of the centerline long enough to really threaten Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. If there was a shot on the Jets goal, the Ducks weren’t in position to take advantage of any second chances.

But then late in the second period Anaheim flipped their switch and they began to skate into a comeback. It’s a switch they seemed to have flipped quite a bit during the regular season.

They got a power play that started with about a minute left in the second period so the Ducks started the third period in a power play. Corey Perry took advantage with a tip-in goal from nine feet out, tying the game.

Perry would record the Ducks second goal of the period, when Anaheim was short-handed. The officials didn’t see it as a goal right away, telling Perry and the others to play on, and it wasn’t until a stoppage was called 62 seconds later that officials could review the video and see that the puck had crossed the line into the net.

Corey Perry’s second score, which needed to be reviewed before it was officially counted. (YouTube)
Corey Perry’s second score, which needed to be reviewed before it was officially counted.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim’s leading scorer, would net the fourth and final Ducks goal during a power play, the second power play goal of the game for the Ducks. The Ducks hadn’t been getting a lot of power plays scores during the regular season, so it was a welcome change for Anaheim.

Like they have done throughout the season, the Ducks played their best during the third period to come back and win. It’s a tricky game to play in the playoffs, when the opposing team is good enough to make the Stanley Cup Finals. Saturday the Ducks will have a chance to take a second game in this seven game series. Winnipeg played very well for most of Thursday’s game, so it won’t be a surprise if they get the win, here at Honda Center.

The most notable point about Anaheim Thursday: their special teams play was great. Their Penalty Kill (PK) number for the season is 8, slightly lower than the league average and they rank #28 in the league when it comes to power play scoring. But Thursday they not only stopped Winnipeg from scoring on power plays, they scored a goal when they were short-handed, And they had the two power play goals by Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

After the game head coach Bruce Boudreau seemed almost surprised by his team’s turnaround with special teams.

Final score was 4-2. Game Two is Saturday Night here in the Honda Center, at 7:30 Pacific Time.

(All photos by Claudia Gestro, unless otherwise noted)