As far as goalie changes go, this one worked out pretty much perfectly.
No one was pinning the Anaheim Ducks’ 0-2 series deficit on John Gibson, but Bruce Boudreau didn’t exactly give the 22-year-old All-Star a ringing endorsement following Sunday night’s outing either, saying his performance between the pipes was simply “OK”. Then again, Boudreau really didn’t have great things to say about any of his guys after they dropped the first two games of their opening round matchup with the Nashville Predators on home ice.
They responded on Tuesday though. And Frederik Andersen led the charge. The other half of Anaheim’s William M. Jennings-winning duo stopped all 27 shots he faced, as the Ducks picked up a much-needed 3-0 road victory.
The 26-year-old Dane was tested early, stopping Colin Wilson from point-blank range less than six minutes in. And he managed to stay in the game after taking a Shea Weber slap shot off the head as well. In other words, he earned this one.
Just like that, we have a competitive series again. In fact, we have a series where the road team has won every contest. And if you believe in momentum that carries over from one game to another in the playoffs, Anaheim has definitely wrestled it back. For now, at least.
Not only did the Ducks trim the Predators’ lead to 2-1, they won the most lopsided game of the series. And they did it in a manner similar to the way they were able to rally in the second half of the regular season. Andersen came up big between the pipes, and the special teams stepped up when it had to.
Anaheim only got to showcase the NHL’s top-rated power play twice on Tuesday, and was turned aside in both instances. But the Ducks’ top-ranked penalty kill came up big, slamming the door all five times Nashville had the man advantage — including one very late in the second, and two more in the third.
The game was still hanging in the balance at that point, so those were big kills. But this was far from a perfect outing by the club from Orange County. Boudreau made it pretty clear he wasn’t pleased with the number of times his group found itself shorthanded in Game 2, and they took five more penalties in this win. To be fair, it wasn’t quite the same as Game 2, when they made three trips to the box in the first 10:51. Still, Anaheim has been shorthanded 10 times in the last two contests. That’s not ideal.
The Ducks were far from dominant on the other end of the ice either. In fact, they were outshot 27-21 when all was said and done — including a third period in which they surrendered 13 shots on goal, while managing just three of their own.
They were, however, opportunistic. And sometimes that’s enough to grab a big win this time of year. The question now: just how much can this victory propel them forward in the rest of the series?
The performance by Andersen is certainly encouraging. And you can just go ahead and pencil him in as the Game 4 starter right now. There are certainly times when a goalie tandem can be more of a distraction than an advantage in the playoffs. In this case though, having two talented netminders to choose from might just be enough to spark Anaheim.
That said, the Predators are likely to deliver a much stronger effort when the puck drops on Thursday. And the notion that the Ducks need more from their big names — a concept floated out there after Game 2 — still holds true in a lot of ways.
It’s great to get secondary scoring this time of year, and they’ve done a decent job of that to this point. In fact, seven different Anaheim players have notched a goal in the first three games. But the main trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler has combined for just two goals and three assists so far. While that’s not “bad”, it’s also probably not enough to get this team where it wants to go. At least not if Nashville starts scoring again.
On the other hand, Perry stayed out of the box on Tuesday — after taking a hooking penalty and an interference call in the first 9:46 of Game 2. And Kesler came up with a big block in front of Andersen late. Even if your main weapons aren’t scoring, they can still contribute in other ways.
Essentially, Game 3 brought out the desperation that Anaheim didn’t quite have in the first two contests. It’s a characteristic the Ducks showed often in the second half of the regular season, after their sluggish start in October and November. But that didn’t guarantee they’d be able to reach down and go into survival mode to grind out a postseason win when they had to have one. Now they’ve done it once. And that sets the stage for a pivotal Game 4 in the Music City.