Tampa Bay played Monday afternoon in LA. They faced what they, and every other team, described as a “big, tough, skating” Kings squad, and they won, 2-1. It was a decent performance against a team that may be big and physical but can’t score goals worth a darn. That, and the absence of Kopitar, made for an LA effort that featured scrambled lines and horrible defense which featured two changes that did nothing to solidify the team.

For its part, the Lightning were missing their key defenseman as well, Victor Hedman, who had been scratched during warmups with a flu or food poisoning.

Bad news for Tampa Bay aficionados—he was still under the weather when Tuesday night came and the Florida team found itself in Anaheim for a 7pm start against the Ducks and at least (most) 5000 of their best fans (as the game began).
But they had a strategy. The very first play of the game, the Lightning took the puck to the back of their net, and sat on it. Held it for so long that the fans already gathered (more would be joining as they cut through the traffic to make it in late) booed. They slowly set up a play as they took the puck down the ice. It failed, but their mode seemed to be to conserve energy.

Whether it was in that minute that the Ducks decided on a strategy of their own, or whether it had been planned earlier, either way it quickly became plain that they were going to run the living daylights out of these Floridians.

The Anaheim team is already known as a skating team. This is different from a “fast” team, which the Kings are. The Ducks are fast, if fleet of foot is the meaning intended there. But it’s more. The Ducks are fast in a different way—they stretch the game out and force the other team to skate.

Skate themselves out, it appeared to be on Tuesday, though Tampa, resilient to the end, never seemed to fade.

The Tampa Bay team responded, and they won the stats battle of period one, with seven shots to two for the Ducks, and yet the SAT numbers weren’t quite as bad—the visitors had 18, and the Ducks 13.

So that tells us something else—that the Ducks were taking shots and having them blocked more than not. That’s because Hedman or not, the Tampa Bay team has a wonderful way of clogging the front of the net and getting legs and bodies in front of shots.

But it doesn’t tell the whole truth, because the Ducks had the puck at least as much, and perhaps more, than Tampa Bay did. But they didn’t care to give it away via shot attempts. They were happy just skating it, moving it, and having the Lightning chase after it. As Getzlaf was to say after, “We were playing a high-flying team, and we were just trying not to feed their offense. We tried to let them do all their dipsy doodle and things in the neutral zone and not give up too much. I think we did a pretty good job of it.”

And though nobody scored, there were some highlights in P1.

P1:

With six minutes gone, it was 6-0 for TB in shots.

Kesler got off the oddest, most dangerous shot of the first when he came to the left boards where Vatanen was trying to dig a puck out, grabbed it and flung a low, surprise of a wrister at Bishop, who had to stick a foot out to save it.

Getzlaf did a Kyle Clifford special, which is to go behind the net and grab a loose puck and then wrap-stuff it in. Only Clifford’s scored on Monday versus Bishop, where Getzlaf’s ran across the crease and out again.

The Lightning, on a power play, saw Filppula set up on a diagonal pass with the whole net open. He shot, too quickly perhaps, and put it high and wide with Gibson sprawling over.

Period two didn’t see the Lightning slowing down any. In fact, they led the shots by a factor of two as the period ended, 18-9. And they had had the Ducks running around a lot, especially late.

Their game seems to be throw it low, and hope it hits something and goes into the net or out to someone who can put it there. As such, they controlled the puck a fair bit in the Anaheim end, and while each team scored a goal, it wasn’t like the Ducks started to run away with things.

The Tampa Bay goal came with a bit of luck. The Ducks’ goal came with a heaping tablespoon of it.

The Lightning goal came off a slap-pass to the front of the net which hit Cam Fowler and dropped down to the ice. Filppula had only to slap it home, and while he might have had flashes of fear due to his earlier miss, he didn’t miss this time.

The Ducks returned the favor before the announcer had even called the goal. It was a bizarre play where the puck was given away in the slot by Paquette. Getzlaf got it, and he flung it to the net and into a wide open side.

Why was there that space? Because with the puck supposed to be headed up ice, Bishop, for some reason, began to exit his net to his left side. He realized too late (of course, or else this would have just been a routine save, and I wouldn’t be using my pixels up telling you about it) that he was out of the way, and tried to get back as the puck sailed past him and hit the twine. It was Getzlaf’s sixth goal of the year, his first of the calendar year. He last scored on December 30th in Vancouver. He hasn’t scored in this country since December 13th, in this state since November 26th, and in this town since well, last season. Yikes.

IH asked Getzlaf after if he had seen that the goalie wasn’t there. “I wish it was that technical. We got good pressure on the shift, on the entry, the puck went side to side. I was on the backcheck and the puck turned over. I tried to get it to the net, hoping one of our guys was there. It turned out that he wasn’t.”

He later said, “I think he [Bishop] was yelling at the ref. I think he wanted a whistle maybe because he got hit in the head with a backhand earlier. I don’t know. I just backchecked, the puck ended up on my stick, and I threw it at the net.”

So with less than five minutes of the second gone, it was a tie game, and the action thereafter stopped. Well, at least the scoring did.

And so to the highlights of P2:

Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat battled for a puck off the boards and brought it to the slot, banging a shot. It went off the outside of the post.

Twice, Perry had chances. On one, he held the puck across the blueline and went across the slot, shooting. It hit Bishop, who didn’t see it. Later, he took the puck around the net and then, instead of whirling around and shooting it, carried it out away from the net to the blueline, where he gave it to Lindholm, He shot it long from the blueline, and it again hit Bishop, who didn’t see it. It was too high on his body to count as a SOG.
The Ducks had a power play with a few minutes to go, and they got a shot off the first faceoff, but then they did nothing else with it. After that, they started to run around and collapse to their net, allowing Tampa Bay to keep the puck in their zone quite a long time. Anton Stralman, a defenseman, at one point took the puck around the net and tried for a wrap-around. Lindholm denied that with his stick.

So in theory, period three would have begun with a tired road team chasing a loose and confident home team, their luck turning slightly on the goal that their captain had been waiting to get since, oh, April.

But this is why they play the games—you cannot ever know in advance what will happen, though as predicted, the Ducks came out in period three blazing, opening up a 5-1 advantage in shots. Carlyle said after that he’d given them a message between the second and third periods: “Wake up.” I think he was joking.

Because after that flurry, the Ducks collapsed again, and John Gibson took over, because he had to. The Ducks had a power play that generated some action, but thereafter let the Lightning get seven more shots on him, most of them dangerous. The highlights of period three, then, belong to Gibson, who would be named the second star eventually, though his coach said “The overall view on the game, our goalie was the first star tonight.” They ended up giving it to the OT goal winner, Rakell. But wait for that.

 

P3:

Tampa Bay’s Gabriel Dumont scooped a shot from the slot and the Anaheim keeper made a great leg save.

Tampa Bay’s Drouin got a pass and started in from the blueline. He got to the slot and shot a fast, low wrister. Leg save again.

Tampa Bay got the puck in the Ducks’ zone late and were moving all over and shooting from everywhere. Save, save, save Gibson. The visitors had 22 shots before the flurry, 26 after.

Tampa Bay’s Braydon Coburn got te puck at the defense and took a slapshot through a crowd. You guessed it—leg save Gibson.

And so the dreaded OT. Why dreaded? Because the Ducks have been terrible at it, losing nine and winning only three before this evening according to the media guide. Even when they did pot the goal, Rakell off a faceoff win by Getzlaf, it was due to their having an extra man after Tyler Johnson took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone.

Has the team finally figured the OT out? Getzlaf was laughing as he responded to this question:

“You guys ask me like I know these things. We’re just trying to win, get points and win. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in OT what.”

And about the overtime win, the Captain said, “It is what it is, again. We try not to get too high or too low in OT’s or shootouts.” He was jokey about it, saying that there’s no plan. “If there is, I want to know about it, because we’re not very good at it. We’re all learning with this thing [3-on-3]. It’s hard to keep your focus on both ends of the rink and know what to do. Tonight we were able to get it done.”

Coach Carlyle said that his team hadn’t worried going in about Bishop, the other goalie. “We just worry about our execution and how our players play.” But when he summed up further, his feelings about his team came out: “We feel that we can definitely take some steps in a positive direction. Maybe not with the overall performance, for sure. There are a lot of areas we can clean up. We seem to have these games, but before we were losing them. We’ve lost a lot in overtime, so we’re gonna take the two points and move on. We’re going to come to work tomorrow.”

 

Notes

 

The Ducks will host the Centennial Fan Arena at Honda Center on January 21st, 2-9pm. This is a 1000-square foot interactive museum which is making appearances at all 30 NHL club cities as part of the league’s celebration of its 100th anniversary.

The Ducks face the Avalanche on Thursday night.

Attendance was announced at 14,763.

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