On a milestone evening for several of their players, the Ducks (12-8-4, 28 pts.) put together perhaps their most dominant performance of the season in a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks (10-12-2, 22 pts.) at Rogers Arena on Thursday. The win was highlighted by Ondrej Kase's first career NHL goal, a well-deserved tally for the 21-year-old in his eighth NHL game. Jakob Silfverberg opened the scoring and Andrew Cogliano delivered an insurance goal late in regulation for the Ducks, who increased their win streak to three games for the first time this season.
"We've got a couple big games left on this trip, but we're getting there," said Cogliano. "We're starting to put our game together. Hopefully we continue that."
The Ducks, who have earned points in six of their past eight games (11 pts, 5-2-1), remain unbeaten against Canadian teams (5-0-0) and undefeated when leading after two periods (10-0-0).
"It was huge for our team," said Cam Fowler, on the win. "As a group, and as a coaching staff, we preach the first game of a road trip. It helps set the tone. We came out ready to play. We were kinda on our heels a little bit in the third period. Credit them for a good push, but we were able to hang on. It's a good start for us."
John Gibson turned aside 27 saves for his second consecutive victory, and improved to 5-1-0 in his career against the Canucks.
The victory also put an end to Vancouver's two-game win streak. The Canucks entered tonight's game with four victories over their past six games and six wins over their past 10. Henrik Sedin scored the lone goal for Vancouver, while Ryan Miller's record fell to 4-9-0 after stopping 21-of-24 shots in the loss.
Although neither team managed to get on the board in the opening period, the 20-minute frame was thoroughly controlled by the Ducks. The club's third line composed of Kase, Nick Ritchie and Antoine Vermette was particularly impressive, as was the shutdown line of Silfverberg, Cogliano and Ryan Kesler. Anaheim's best chance came in the opening minutes of the game when Cogliano shanked a Kesler shot-pass wide with a gaping net in front of him.
Vancouver's best opportunity came late in the period when Alex Burrows hit the outside of the net on a one-timer from the right dot following a Ducks turnover in the far corner.
Anaheim's momentum carried over into the second period when Silfverberg wired a one-timer over Miller's shoulder at the 3:19 mark to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. The goal represented Silfverberg's 13th point (6g/7a) in his past 13 games. The play started in their own end when Fowler gained possession of the puck just in front of Gibson. From there, the smooth-skating defenseman carried it through the neutral zone before backing off the Canucks, who were stationary at the blue line. After weaving through several Canucks, Fowler shuttled a pass to Silfverberg, who unloaded his patented quick release from the left dot.
With his assist, Fowler surpassed Chris Kunitz (192) for sole possession of 10th on the franchise's all-time scoring list. And with the secondary helper, Sami Vatanen (109) passed Lubomir Visnovsky for sole possession of seventh on the club's all-time scoring list for defensemen.
"As it's been well-documented, I've been trying to contribute more offensively this year," said Fowler, who leads Ducks defensemen with 15 points (7g/8a). "I feel like there's more to that side of the game that I can bring. That comes with playing with great teammates. It's nice to be mentioned in the top-10, but hopefully I have quite a few more games to build on that and improve as a player."
An impressive 5-on-3 penalty kill was followed by a milestone shift for Kase, who scored his first career NHL goal on a bank shot off Canucks defensemen Nikita Tryamkin and Erik Gudbranson to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead at the 14:35 mark of the middle frame. The goal was a long time coming for the soft-spoken 21-year-old, who was selected with the 205th overall pick in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
The Canucks made it interesting when H. Sedin converted a tap-in goal from Loui Eriksson with seven minutes remaining in regulation. The goal rejuvenated the Canucks, who followed it up with several shifts deep in the Ducks' zone.
Their comeback was put on ice when Cogliano put the Ducks up 3-1 on a snap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Miller five-hole with 2:25 remaining in regulation. "I just tried to get it on net," Cogliano said. "Obviously it snuck through, but he probably wants that one back. I'm not complaining."
Anaheim's three-game Western Canada road trip continues with a back-to-back set in Edmonton on Saturday and Calgary on Sunday.
NOTE: The game also represented a homecoming for defenseman Shea Theodore, who grew up in nearby Aldergrove, BC. Theodore's parents were in attendance, as were "30 or 40" family members and friends.