What began as a new chapter quickly turned into a familiar script for Anaheim, which once again found itself on the wrong end of a one-goal game. Despite scoring the game's opening goal and thus taking the lead, both firsts for Anaheim this season, a sloppy second period proved costly as the Ducks lost, 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.
Sami Vatanen scored the lone goal for Anaheim, which remains winless on its four-game road trip (0-3-1). John Gibson had himself another strong showing in net despite the loss, turning aside 26-of-28 shots.
Taylor Hall scored his first two goals as a Devil and Cory Schneider made 23 saves to give New Jersey its first win of the season (1-1-1) in the club's home opener.
Anaheim's lone goal was the result of a fine individual effort from Cam Fowler, who made a stellar keep-in at the tail-end of the club's second power play of the first period. After Fowler settled the puck down, he sent a wrist shot toward the net that bounced off Ryan Getzlaf, who fed it to Corey Perry at the top of the zone. Perry faked a shot and shuttled it over to Vatanen, who hammered one past Schneider to give the Ducks their first lead of the season.
The goal represented Vatanen's 100th career NHL point (30g/70a) in his 198th game. Getzlaf's assist extended his point streak to three games, earning five points (1g/4a) over that span. Fowler, too, extended his point streak to three games, with four points (2g/2a) in those contests.
New Jersey nearly tied it with five minutes remaining in the opening frame had it not been for Gibson, who made a sensational no-look, blind behind-the-back arm save to clear the puck out of harm's way. Moments earlier, he got a break when Adam Henrique's snap shot clanged off the near post and into the corner.
Though he was tested throughout the opening frame, Gibson played perhaps his best 20-minute stretch of hockey all season, and finished the period with 11 saves.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, the second period was a far cry from their effort in the game's opening 20 minutes.
The Devils found the equalizer at the 12:35 mark of the second period on a fortunate bounce that landed on Hall's stick. The power-play goal was Hall's first goal (and point) as a Devil, having previously spent the first six seasons of his NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers.
Hall's Prudential Center debut got even sweeter when, on another power play, he managed to get a stick on a Damon Severson's point shot to give the Devils a 2-1 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the second period.
Chris Wagner had the best chance of the middle frame for Anaheim after he was hooked on a shorthanded breakaway. The ref deemed it worthy of a penalty shot, but the Massachusetts native failed to convert - the puck narrowing hopping over his stick-blade at the moment of truth. It was an unfortunate miss for the Ducks, who wound up shorthanded for the fifth time in the period when Kevin Bieksa was called for holding with 9.3 seconds remaining.
Like the previous three games, the third period was again one that was tightly contested - and one that had the Ducks knocking on the doorstep.
They had their best shot at tying the game with the man advantage in the closing minutes of the game when John Moore was whistled for a delay-of-game penalty, but Schneider turned away every puck the Ducks threw at him, including several in the closing seconds of regulation.
A comeback wasn't in the script for Anaheim, which fell to 0-3-1 on the season. The Ducks will close out their five-game road trip on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.