It was a night which will not be soon forgotten. On Tuesday, March 12 in Minnesota, the Anaheim Ducks dug deep and produced perhaps their most character-building victory of the season. Having been outshot 8-3 in the first period, and 14-4 in the second, they found themselves trailing only 1-0 thanks to brilliant play from goalie Jonas Hiller. In the third period, they found magic from two unlikely sources.
At 3:06 of the third period, with their fourth line on the ice. Toni Lydman blasted a shot from the point. Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom made the initial save but the puck skittered out to his right. Ducks' forward Pat Maroon curled around from behind the net, and with only one hand on his stick, the beefy 6'3" winger used his long reach to tip the puck in behind a sprawling Backstrom, to tie the score at 1-1. Amazingly, the Ducks went on to actually outplay Minnesota in the final period.
The magic moment came when the teams appeared headed to overtime. On the tail end of a Ducks' flurry in the offensive zone, the puck came to Luca Sbisa at the point. The 23 year old Italian defenseman waited for a screen to develop in front of the net, and then launched a perfectly placed wrist shot high into the net over the outstretched blocker of Backstrom at 16:56 to put the Ducks ahead. It was Luca's first goal of the season.
When the final horn sounded, the Ducks had gone from having been outshot 22-7 and down 1-0 after two periods, to outshooting the Wild, 14-9 in the third period and ultimately winning the game, 2-1.
Final shots on goal: Ducks 21, Minnesota 31
Power play: Ducks 0-3, Minnesota 1-4
Not surprisingly, goalie Jonas Hiller was named #1 star of the game.
Now for the bad news:
At 4:21 of the second period, Jason Zucker was knocked unconscious by Corey Perry's hard check along the boards. Perry was assessed a 5 min major penalty for interference, and a game misconduct. The Ducks killed off the ensuing power play and overcame the loss of Perry, but the issue did not end there.
On March 13, the NHL deemed Perry's hit worthy of suspension. The winger has been suspended for four games. He will miss the remaining two games of this road trip, Thursday night in Dallas, and Saturday night in St Louis, as well as the first two games of the upcoming homestand, monday night against San Jose, and Wednesday night against Chicago.
This will be a stiff test for the Ducks. They already endured the loss of defenseman Cam Fowler for nine games earlier in the season, and though he is back, they have now been without winger Kyle Palmieri for the past five games. Both were out due to injury.
The Ducks will now have to deal with games against four playoff caliber teams, minus the services of their second leading scorer.
The explanation by Rob Blake of the NHL Dept of player safety: "Corey Perry delivered a late, illegal hit which injured Minnesota forward Jason Zucker. Although all plays develop quickly, Perry has enough time to avoid this violent check, or at the very least, minimize it more significantly.While we accept Perry's assertion that there was no malicious intent to hit Zucker's head, the fact remains, he does recklessly make significant contact to the head of a player who was ineligible to be checked. In summary, this was a late, illegal check. Zucker suffered an injury as a result of the hit, and was unable to return to the game. Perry has been suspended once, four years ago, during his eight season NHL career. The department of player safety has suspended Corey Perry for four games."
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