ANAHEIM -- The scoring barrage the Ducks displayed last night wasn't in store for them this evening, but they had to like what they saw from goalie Anthony Stolarz.
The recently recalled netminder had 34 stops as his Ducks teammates tried in vain to find the tying goal in a 4-2 defeat to the St. Louis Blues in a makeup game at Honda Center. Rookie defenseman Jani Hakanpaa had the lone goal for the Ducks, the first of his NHL career.
Tonight was a rare second game of a home back-to-back for the Ducks, since it was the rescheduled game that was originally played on February 11 and postponed when Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had a cardiac episode on the Blues bench in the first period. Tonight's contest followed the same sixty-minute format and began with the score tied 1-1, as it was at the time of the postponement.
"I thought we did a pretty decent job throughout the game," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "They had times where they spent a little too much time in our zone. We got tired and got caught a little bit. Overall, I thought we skated well with them. We had some opportunities we didn't bury that can change the momentum of the game. I thought our goalie did a great job tonight stepping in and making some key saves at key times to keep us in it."
With Ducks goalie John Gibson still out with a lower body injury and Ryan Miller having played in last night's 5-2 win over Ottawa, Stolarz made his Ducks debut tonight. The 26-year-old New Jersey native had previously played 25 NHL games with Philadephia and Edmonton and was having a solid season at (21-12-6 record) with Anaheim's AHL affiliate in San Diego prior to his call-up.
"It's always fun to play in the NHL," Stolarz said. "You get sent down at the beginning of the year and you want to prove you belong in the NHL. That's what I've been trying to do in San Diego. Just continue to work hard and wait for an opportunity. When you get it, make the most of it."
Stolarz got off to a great start with a number of big saves in the early going, but the Blues finally got one past him on an Alex Pietrangelo power play one-timer through traffic.
Anaheim ultimately got even with 6 1/2 minutes left in the middle frame when Hakanpaa got his first NHL goal in his fifth game, a shot from the point that hit goalie Jake Allen and leaked behind him.
Video: STL@ANA: Hakanpaa buries wrister for first NHL goal
Of his so-far brief NHL stint, Hakanpaa said it's, "Trying to take it in as it comes along. I try to have fun out there and enjoy the whole thing. You never know how long it's going to last. Just trying to soak it all in. It takes a little time before you realize what's happening around you and where you're at. This morning I woke up and had to remind myself this was a dream. You made it all the way here. Just go out there, have fun and play the game. That's what I've been trying to do since Day 1."
St. Louis went back in front on a delayed penalty when it appeared two different times the Ducks had earned the whistle with a touch-up. Play continued, and Zach Sanford backhanded the puck into an open net.
The Ducks' hopes to tie it again fell by the wayside as Allen (26 saves) stopped everything he saw the rest of the way. Stolarz skated off for an extra attacker with a minute and a half left, and Pietrangelo put the game away when he lofted the puck into the empty net soon afterward.
Bouwmeester, it should be noted, underwent surgery last month at UCI Medical Center in Orange to install an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) device that will restore his heart's normal rhythm in case of a similar future incident. He ultimately returned to St. Louis and two weeks ago and gave an update on his condition. "It was a scary thing, but everything has been going well lately, and we'll continue to evaluate things as we go," he said, noting that he will miss the rest of this season. "I'm at the point now I feel pretty good. There are some restrictions as to what I can do, but I feel pretty normal, so that's a good thing."
Just before puck drop, fans were asked to pay respects to the first responders, athletic trainers, medical staff, equipment staff, EMTs, doctors and everyone involved in their handling of Bouwmeester's emergency. Earlier today, the California Athletic Trainers' Association recognized and awarded the Ducks and Blues staffs with the CATA Lifesaver Award for their response and action during the emergency.
Video: CATA Lifesaver Award for Ducks and Blues Staffs
Tonight's game was played as scheduled and open to ticketed fans, though the NBA announced earlier this evening it was suspending its season after a player tested positive for the coronavirus. The NHL released a statement just before puck drop in Anaheim that read: The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA's decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus. The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow.
"We'll cross that bridge when it comes," Getzlaf said. "We know what happened with the NBA today and what's going on worldwide. We'll cross that bridge when we know what's going on. The league and the [National Hockey League Players' Association] are supposed to send out a statement tomorrow at some time. We'll deal with it then and comment on it after that."
Added Ducks coach Dallas Eakins, "I have great trust in our leadership. I have great trust in our league and our health professionals. Whatever they're going to direct us to do, we'll do it. It's very simple. With everything that's going on, and it's nothing to do so much with the team, but our community. Obviously there's a breakout of a virus going on. We need a massive breakout of kindness, alertness and awareness of what we need to do. We need to take these things very seriously. When things like this go on, we talk about teams coming together, this is when communities need to come together. We're going to need that kindness and awareness so we can all keep each other safe. Not just ourselves, but the people around us."