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Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
Anaheim - Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Despite a 38-save performance by goaltender Curtis Joseph, a pair of third period goals proved to be the difference as the Phoenix Coyotes fell to the Anaheim Ducks by the score of 2-1.
Over the course of the first two minutes of the opening period, the Coyotes and Ducks demonstrated their penchant for offensive play as they alternated rushes into the offensive zones.
At 2:40 of the period, while the Ducks were trying to set up in the offensive zone, Phoenix forward Mike Zigomanis was assessed the first minor penalty of the contest when he was called for cross-checking. On the ensuing power play, the Ducks showed why their power play is among the best in the league as they completely controlled the tempo of play inside the Coyotes zone. While Anaheim would record a number of shots on goal during the man-advantage, the best scoring opportunity came off the stick of forward Ryan Getzlaf at the right side of the net, but goaltender Curtis Joseph made a unbelievable save to keep the game scoreless and allow the Coyotes to return to full strength.
After returning to five-on-five hockey, the Coyotes received their first quality scoring chance when Owen Nolan found himself with the puck, alone in front of the net. Nolan tried to get the shot off before the Anaheim defense could get back into the play and as a result, fired a shot into the mid-section of netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
The Coyotes continued to wait for their opportunity to strike in the offensive zone while they took care of business in their own zone, keeping the Ducks offensive attack contained.
Feeding off their defensive play, Phoenix would grab the first lead of the game at 17:01 of the period when defenseman Keith Ballard made a long pass from the Coyotes zone to Fredrik Sjostrom in the neutral zone. Sjostrom briefly lost control of the puck as it rolled into the Anaheim zone, but he was able to make his way around Ducks blueliner Francois Beauchemin, grab the puck and slide it past Giguere for a 1-0 lead.
Despite a late penalty to Phoenix's Patrick Fischer for tripping, the Coyotes would make their lead hold up for the remainder of the period, as they left the ice after 20-minutes of play with a one-goal lead.
The Coyotes began the second period on the penalty kill with 50-seconds remaining on the infraction to Fischer. Just as they had in the closing second of the first, the Coyotes kept the puck in the sight of Joseph and forced the Ducks to move the puck rather than shoot it on net. As a result, the penalty to Fischer came to an end without consequence for Phoenix.
At 10:31 of the second, emotions began to run high between the two clubs as a pile-up in front of the Ducks goal saw Anaheim defenseman Sean O'Donnell try and move Oleg Saprykin away from the net with a stiff right hand. The two clubs would then come together and when everything was settled, it was the Coyotes who would wind up on the power play with Chris Pronger heading to the box to server a cross-checking call.
With the extra attacker, Phoenix was able to get the puck down inside the Ducks end and keep Giguere involved with a series of shots on goal and loose pucks around the net, although they were unable to add to their one-goal lead.
With three minutes to play in the second, Joseph again stood on his head as he made a point blank stop on a deflection at the top of the crease to keep the Ducks from tying the game.
Coyotes forward Bill Thomas, who was playing in his first NHL game of the season, was reminded to keep his head up when he tried to cut through the neutral zone with just over a minute in the second and received a devastating open-ice hit from Beauchemin at center-ice. Thomas would fall to the ice, but quickly return to his feet and head to the bench as the second stanza came to a close.
With just over five-minutes gone in the third period, the Ducks made their third trip to the penalty box when forward Chris Kunitz was called for interference. Phoenix continued to get set up in the Anaheim end, but they still couldn't generate enough pressure on Giguere and the Ducks defensemen to result in a insurance goal as the penalty expired with the Ducks still trailing by one.
Shortly after the Coyotes power play ended, Phoenix found themselves facing a pair of delayed penalties while Anaheim moved the puck around the zone. The Coyotes had a chance to get a whistle when Anaheim's Beauchemin was stopped on a shot at the top of the crease, but Joseph couldn't control the rebound and the Ducks beat Phoenix to the loose puck. Failing to stop play would prove costly for the Coyotes as Anaheim forward Travis Moen took a shot form the left face-off circle that somehow found its way through traffic and into the Coyotes net, tying the game at 1-1.
Adding to the Coyotes troubles was the fact that they still had a penalty to kill as defenseman Travis Roche was sent to the box on an interference call. The Ducks power play brought their most intense effort of the game as Roche served his minor infraction. Mixing shots from the point with those from the side of the net, kept Joseph and the Coyotes defense constantly moving around the ice.
Finally with 38-seconds left in Roche's penalty, Anaheim's pressure would get the better of Phoenix when Andy McDonald snapped a one-timer from the slot that slipped through the legs of "Cujo" and into the goal. Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger recorded assists on McDonald's 15th tally of the season, which game the Ducks their first lead of the game.
The Coyotes brought everything they had at the Ducks over the finals minutes of regulation and just when it appeared they may be on the verge of tying that game, having the puck bounce around the front of the Anaheim net; Ducks forward Samuel Pahlsson raced in and intentionally knocked the goal off it's pegs resulting in a stoppage of play. Inexplicably, their was no delay-of-game call on Pahlsson and the Ducks would be able to kill off the final seconds of the period as the Coyotes fell to their inner-division rivals by the score of 2-1.