ANAHEIM – The Ducks have had a flair for the dramatic this season, but tonight they gave their fans as much as they could handle in a 4-3 victory over the Stars in Game 1.
Despite getting off to a roaring start, the Ducks had to hang on for dear life to survive and take a 1-0 series lead. Anaheim led the game 4-0 midway through the second and looked primed to run away it, but the Stars clawed back to within a goal before the Ducks hung on over a tense final six minutes. That came much to the relief of a mostly orange-clad overflow crowd of 17,294 at Honda Center.
The Ducks handed out orange t-shirts and rally towels to each of the fans in attendance, lending to the Paint It Orange theme of this postseason, and the playoff-time energy in the building could be felt at the outset.The Ducks appeared to feed off it in the first 30 minutes of the game, but they let their foot off the gas in the second and third before clamping down over the final stretch.
They paid for it, however, as Ryan Getzlaf took a slapshot off his face with 16.3 seconds left in the game and the Dallas net empty. He headed straight for the locker room, and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said afterward, "I just know he’s getting stitched up right now. That’s the only thing I’ve heard. I think he’s going to be okay, but he’ll probably have a nasty cut on the side of his mouth. I’ll know more tomorrow or later tonight."
The Ducks also lost Matt Beleskey to a lower-body injury in the third period, and he did not return, though Boudreau said he hopes he plays on Friday.
Of the team's hot start, winger Corey Perry said, "It was just us excited being back on the big stage. Everybody wants to play, and everybody wants to win. You’re going to have ups and downs in the playoffs, but if you can keep an even keel, you’re going to be all right."
The Ducks got on the board early in this one, as Kyle Palmieri took in a feed from Nick Bonino and backhanded it under goalie Kari Lehtonen less than two minutes after the opening faceoff. It was the fourth goal (and sixth point) in the last six postseason games for Palmieri.
Anaheim made it 2-0 with 7:11 left in the first when Beleskey wristed a shot from the left wing that caromed off Lehtonen, and Getzlaf chipped in the rebound.
The first of two power-play goals came with 29.7 seconds left in the period, as Patrick Maroon made a pretty cross-ice feed to Mathieu Perreault, who hammered it home.
It was more of the same for the first half of the second, as the Ducks cashed in again on the power play when Francois Beauchemin rifled a slap shot from the point that deflected in off the right knee of Beleskey. It marked the first time the Ducks had multiple power-play goals since they had six on January 15 vs. Vancouver.
But Dallas came to life late in the second after two Ducks penalties (the latter a too many men on the ice call) led to a 5-on-3 for the Stars. And they took advantage, as an Alex Chiasson shot from the left circle kicked off Andersen and Jamie Benn punched it into the open net.
Not long after, though back at full strength, Anaheim gave up a second Dallas goal as Colton Sceviour fired from the right circle under Andersen, who may have been screened by Beauchemin.
"A little adversity isn’t going to hurt us," Perry said. "We’ve got to learn how to play with the lead, especially down to the wire. All those things are going to help us."
Dallas ultimately pulled to within a goal with 6:07 left in regulation as Tyler Seguin redirected a Trevor Daley pass inside the left post. But that was it for the Stars, as the Anaheim defense and Andersen (32 saves) shut them down the rest of the way.
"We let up a little bit in the third after our fourth goal, so this is a good lesson for us," Andersen said. "Hopefully we can prevent that from happening again."
Game 2 between these two teams is Friday night at Honda Center.