Tensions were oddly high for a Wednesday night in early January. The Anaheim Ducks, badly outplayed in their previous contest, received a firm tongue-lashing from head coach Randy Carlyle earlier in the week. The message was clear: tighten things up defensively, or they’d find themselves in a world of trouble. The response wasn’t emphatic by any means, but the Ducks nevertheless responded to their coach’s criticism, edging the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 in a tight-checking affair.
It was the kind of low-event game that Anaheim has become accustomed to this season. The Ducks seem to live for close games, and Wednesday was no different. Carlyle even took matters into his own hands at one point, using his coach’s challenge to negate a Brendan Smith goal in the second period. Detroit never really seemed to recover, getting out-shot the rest of the way while taking a litany of ill-advised penalties.
That was the plan, apparently, according to goaltender John Gibson, who told the assembled media that, “The guys did a really good job of slowing them down in the neutral zone, [Detroit’s a] very fast team, that’s where they get their offense from. I think we executed our game plan really well.”
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) January 5, 2017
The youngsters drove the bus, with Nick Ritchie getting the first goal while Gibson turned aside every shot he faced. Maybe, just maybe, Carlyle’s language will be a bit less colorful in Anaheim’s next practice thanks to the effort they gave on Wednesday night.
On two day’s rest, Anaheim seemed rusty instead of rejuvenated to start the game. The Wings, led by the likes of Anthony Mantha and Tomas Tatar, seemed to be able to impose their much talked about skating ability in the early going. Yet as has been the case for Detroit all season long, that eventually went by the wayside.
Ritchie goal, 1-0 Ducks pic.twitter.com/4G7mjEacHN
— steph (@myregularface) January 5, 2017
The Ducks seemed to find a way to slow things down, establishing their methodical rhythm to the game. The slower pace might have fazed Jonathan Ericsson. He launched the puck up the boards directly to Kase, who isn’t exactly the type of player opponents want to be gifting the puck to. The Anaheim forward wired the puck directly back to Detroit’s net, where Ritchie leveraged his big frame into a greasy rebound goal.
The second stanza, though blank on the scoresheet, did not come without its fair share of drama. Anaheim struggled to really distance themselves from Detroit throughout the first, leaving the outcome of the game still very much in question.
Lo and behold, the Wings did seize on that opportunity right away, at least at first glance. On what appeared to be a sloppy line change, defenseman Brendan Smith was able to pinch in from the blueline to bang home a rebound laying in front of a crowded Anaheim net.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 5, 2017
Carlyle promptly invoked his coach’s challenge, and the officials just as promptly deduced that there was no goal on the play. Goaltender interference had been deemed a factor, negating Detroit’s tying bid.
Detroit had barely shown any signs of life through 40 minutes. Even so, they remained down only a goal thanks in large part to some stellar goaltending by Petr Mrazek in the second. His brightest moment came at the expense of Rickard Rakell, who failed to convert on a beautiful feed from Corey Perry.
After Mrazek had stood on his head in the middle frame, it was Gibson’s turn to shine. He turned aside difficult shots on the penalty kill, allowing Anaheim to maintain their razor-thin lead.
Kase goal pic.twitter.com/QmmSLAB02i
— steph (@myregularface) January 5, 2017
With just under three minutes remaining in the game, Kase once again rose to the occasion, roofing home a loose puck and sending the Honda Center into a frenzy. That would prove to be the difference, allowing the Ducks to pick up their twentieth win of the season while tying San Jose in the Pacific Division standings.
ANA –Nick Ritchie (9) assisted by Antoine Vermette & Ondrej Kase
ANA – Ondrej Kase (3) assisted by Antoine Vermette & Kevin Bieksa
THW Three Stars
First: Ondrej Kase (late goal, assist)
Second: Nick Ritchie (game winning goal)
Third: John Gibson (shutout)
Detroit Red Wings at Los Angeles Kings
Staples Center – 7:30 p.m. PST on Thursday, January 5
Broadcast channels – FSDT & FSW
2016-17 Season Series: Dec. 15 Los Angeles (4) – Detroit (1)
Arizona Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks
Honda Center– 7:00 p.m. PST on Friday, January 6
Broadcast channels – FSW, FSAZ
2016-17 Season Series: Nov. 4 Anaheim (5) – Arizona (1)