After being defeated by a score of 5-2, the Anaheim Ducks returned to the T-Mobile Arena looking to even the series with the Vegas Golden Knights. Robin Lehner watched from the bench, as Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start of the season, hoping to follow up the performance put forward by his fellow tendie.
Unrelenting pressure from the home team had the Ducks hemmed into their own zone for most of the first 10 minutes of game clock. They were unable to score, but established huge momentum. It took quite some time for the Ducks to get off their heels.
Anaheim broke the scoreless tie in the second period, when a 3-on-1 opportunity presented itself. The lone goal-scorer from Thursday’s game struck again, as Max Comtois buried a back door chance. Eventually the Golden Knights broke through, winning in suspenseful fashion, 2-1 F/OT.
Vegas pulled out all the stops to win this game. They debuted their official alternate jerseys and wanted a result worthy of the gold uniforms. It wasn’t a game reminiscent of the wildly successful opener, but it had its moments. What had happened was.....
Alex! Pietrangelo! Theodore!
Pete DeBoer has not been shy about putting both of his dynamic two-way defensemen out at the same time. It’s pretty exciting to watch and the more time they get together, the more highlight reels they will make.
When the Ducks started to take over the game, push the play, and eventually score DeBoer responded by leaning on his top two blueliners. Those two spent very little time sitting, with at least one of them on the ice for nearly the whole second period.
Heading into overtime, Pietrangelo already logged 29:23 TOI, with Theodore following him up with 26:26 of his own. Considering Keegan Kolesar only saw time (2:40) in the first period, it may be prudent to suit up a sixth defenseman. With only five defensemen and an emphasis to ride Pietrangelo as much as possible, he and Theodore are inevitably and admittedly getting a tad too much ice time.
The Cost of (Over)Aggressiveness
On multiple occasions, the Golden Knights defensemen got caught in their offensive zone, allowing odd man rushes at Fleury. The Flower stood tall, answering the call, but that’s a risky game to play. Looking back, four of the five defensemen committed big, memorable turnovers at their own blue line. Zach Whitecloud looks better every game - even as the young guy in the group - with very few noticeable gaffes in this one.
Whitecloud had a marvelous game, showing off good instincts and a solid two-way game. He finished the night with a Corsi For of 62.79% with Theodore (64.71%) being the lone defenseman to top his percentage. His stability and well-rounded game is imperative for a team rolling five d-men, as evidenced by his play-driving numbers. As much as the credit will go to Fleury and the other big names, capable players like Whitecloud should also be lauded. They’re invaluable to the team.
More often than not, the aggressive mentality of the Golden Knights blue line will pay off. The talent level is there and they have truly elite options in Pietrangelo and Theodore. This game will help serve as an imperative reminder of the dangers that come when you get too aggressive. Lucky for the VGK, Fleury was terrific and ready for the challenge.
On Their Best Behavior
Power Plays came at a premium with Jonathan Marchessault’s desperation slash, during a 3-on-1, serving as the only infraction for a majority of the game. A questionable delay of game call with 11:13 left in the game finally took a Duck off the pond.
Vegas had too few chances to load up their talent and parlay a few penalties into a Power Play goal or two. They failed to get a puck on net in their lone opportunity. The Ducks were smart to play a disciplined, trapping style in this one. Their dedication to the game plan and playing the right way kept them in the game throughout the evening. Not to mention the play of goaltender John Gibson.
Getting to Gibson
Gibson was great in this one. Through two periods he turned away a whopping 25 Golden Knights shots on goal. The shot quality was noticeably high, but the net under was ready. He had his A-game, giving the Ducks the best shot possible of winning. He went on to finish the night with 31 saves.
In Thursday night’s opener, the Golden Knights took the lead in the final period. In the grudge match, they tied it up late when William Karlsson buried a one-touch pass from Jonathan Marchessault with 1:22 left on the clock and an extra attacker on the ice. The goal gave the Golden Knights noticeable jump and they were off to the races.
They parlayed that energy into the opening shift of overtime, winning the game in a short seven seconds. Rickard Rackell made an atrociously costly read on the faceoff, charging forward and allowing a 2-on-1 the other way. Neither Mark Stone nor Max Pacioretty are centers, yet they won the draw and the game, in one fell swoop. Patch and Cap for the win and for the second straight game, they rose to the occasion when it mattered most.
Following the game Ducks coach Dallas Eakins spoke to the “anger” in his locker room following the Pacioretty game winner and how that is good and ultimately what the team needs. His Ducks are a team on the upswing and this game will go down as a harsh lesson learned. Good teams find ways to win and that’s just what the Golden Knights did.
A four game set against the Arizona Coyotes is next on deck for the VGK. The Golden Knights will hold the home-ice “advantage” for games one and two of the series before traveling to Glendale on Friday, for the final two games.
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