anaheim gibsonThe Anaheim Ducks took a 2-0 lead by the midway point of the second period and then let their checking game take over in a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens Wednesday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Francois Beauchemin and Rickard Rackell gave the Ducks the lead and Cam Fowler then scored a shorthanded empty net goal to make it 3-0 with 2:02 remaining. The Canadiens avoided a second straight shutout at the hands of a West Coast team when Alex Galchenyuk scored on the same power play with 1:41 left. The Canadiens outshot Anaheim 38-33. The announced three stars in Anaheim were Ducks goaltender John Gibson, Beauchemin and former Canadien Jiri Sekac.

Adding It Up –

What Happened? This is one of those games that makes you scratch your head. Every advanced statistic tells you this game was competitive right to the end. The Fenwick chart of unblocked shots actually showed the Canadiens ahead 46-45. Scoring chances were 25-21 for Anaheim. Yet, the sense one got was the Canadiens were controlled up by a bigger and stronger team that played most of the night with a lead in front of their own fans..

Pinned Back – The Canadiens have a lot of very good, but small forwards. Anaheim has a lot of good forwards who are big. Which would you rather have?  And that is the continuing story line of this version of the team.  In the early stages of the game the forecheck combined with their shutdown work in the neutral zone allowed them to take their 2-0 lead. You can cover up a lot of deficiencies on defense with a great forecheck and the Ducks have issues in their own end witness the body of work from goaltender John Gibson on the night..

Quick Study – The goal that turned out to be the game winner came off a strong forecheck. Jiri Sekac got in on P.K. Subban and stripped him of the puck in the corner putting it back to the point. Sekac then beat Subban to the front of the net where he was able to tip the puck to Rikard Rackell, another rookie to make it 2-0.

Sensing a Pattern? With 2:08 remaining in regulation time and the score still 2-0 Clayton Stoner was penalized for putting the puck over the glass. The Canadiens took Carey Price out and sent David Desharnais out for a 6-on-4 faceoff against 6’2” Ryan Kesler.  Kesler had already beaten him 13 times on the night and won the draw back to defenseman Cam Fowler. Six seconds after the penalty was called the score was 3-0.

The Understudy Blues – For the second night on the trip the Canadiens were faced down by a backup goaltender. Alex Stalock shut them out in San Jose. John Gibson in his first ever start against the Canadiens came within two minutes of shutting them out again. Unlike Stalock who was given pretty much a free pass by Carey Price‘s teammates, in this game the Canadiens generated some offense although one could question the way they managed the puck at times.  Gibson had an outstanding night.  Canadiens fans are getting used to seeing backup and rookie goaltenders stand on their proverbial heads against their team.  Gibson had a very big night.  The Canadiens offense?  Well, it is what it is.

anaheimn smith pellyReserving Judgement – Not much to say about the newcomers. Obviously Sekac had a greater effect on the result than Devante Smith-Pelly who was given just under 13 minutes of third-line ice time but had four shots on goal, three scoring chances and three hits. Bruce Boudreau gave Sekac nine minutes. The debut game for Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn. They were on the ice for each of the first two goals. Jeff Petry led the Canadiens in hits with four and blocked shot with three which is good. He was caught on the opening Beauchemin goal although Price might share some of the blame as well. Therrien still trusted him enough to give him almost 21 minutes and 28 shifts.

In Reality – It’s easy to criticize the Canadiens for this one. Maybe a little too easy. They were on the road, three time zones away from home playing the team that now has the league’s best record and still, early in the third period they were within one bounce of making this a nailbiter. Losses like this do expose flaws, but they can’t be all that fatal. The Habs still have the league’s third best winning percentage.

Also Worth Mentioning – …..If one were to pick a game turning point it would be those back to back Canadiens power plays early in the second period with the game still 1-0.  As usual on the road, the power play was utterly toothless.  Three shots on goal over four minutes, None dangerous.  Just over a minute after the second penalty ended, the Ducks scored what proved to be the game winner. …..Max Pacioretty had eight shots on goal, but seven of them came in the first two periods. Playing with a 2-0 lead, Anaheim shut him down in the third period. Pacioretty and Gallagher took 19 shots in the game, 13 of them on goal. …Only Tomas Plekanec was a winner in the faceoff circle – 10 of 18 for 56%. 

Moving On – The Canadiens still have a chance for a .500 road trip but they’re going to have to go through Los Angeles Thursday night and then Phoenix on Saturday in order to accomplish it. They haven’t lost three games in a row since early December when they dropped those three road games to Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas. The question Therrien will be mulling overnight is whether to put Price in a back to back situation again at Los Angeles.