Heralded by Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau during training camp, Jiri Sekac
wasted no time putting his stamp on the club’s preseason opener on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Sekac opened the scoring just 28 seconds into the game against the Colorado Avalanche, and found the back of the net again in the third period, but it wasn’t enough as Alex Tanguay’s game-winner in overtime gave the Avalanche a 5-4 victory. John Gibson
turned aside 26-of-31 shots in the loss, while Semyon Varlamov stopped 15 of 17 through 40 minutes of play. Avalanche backup goaltender Roman Will stopped 9-of-11 in the third period and overtime.
"I thought there were a lot of good things and bad things in the game, and you learn from watching bad things," said Boudreau. "You learn a little bit about players. You would like to come out with a win all the time. Losing in OT... we had a chance to win. We had it on our stick. Overall, I was fairly happy with most of the players."
Sekac, whom Boudreau said “looks bigger, stronger, quicker and more determined to be an everyday player,” used his trademark speed to catch Colorado defensemen flat-footed before sneaking one past Varlamov. The lead was short-lived; Colorado’s 2014 first-round draft pick Conner Bleackley tied the game less than two minutes later.
The game would remain tied until Mikko Rantanen beat Gibson far side to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead at the 6:16 mark of the second period. Rantanen was Colorado’s first selection (10th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Anaheim would get the equalizer later in the middle frame on a power-play goal from 18-year-old Julius Nattinen at the 12:42 mark. Nattinen shined in two Futures Games vs. San Jose prospects two weeks ago, scoring a goal in the first contest and adding two assists in the second game.
After matching roughing minors to Simon Despres and Carl Soderberg, it was Gibson who would rob Nathan MacKinnon in tight on a nifty save in the opening seconds. Just moments later, Sekac would score his second goal of the night, this time on Will 1:44 into the third.
Chris Wagner would increase Anaheim’s lead to 4-2 two minutes later, beating Will over the glove for his first goal of the preseason.
Colorado cut the deficit to 4-3 with a shorthanded goal from unsigned free agent Jack Skille on a second-chance opportunity with Gabriel Landeskog in the box for cross-checking.
With momentum now in their favor, the Avs tied the game, 4-4, on a power-play goal from defenseman Nick Holden. The goal, scored at 11:15 of the third, came on a Rickard Rakell holding penalty.
It was only fitting that the game headed to overtime, since the new 3-on-3 format was to be used regardless of the game’s final outcome.
After Gibson made a sparkling save on a 3-on-1 chance with Nathan MacKinnon leading the rush, the Ducks quickly transitioned up the ice. In all alone on a breakaway, Wagner fired on Will but missed wide.
As was expected in the new format, the game-winner was scored just 1:18 into OT, as crafty veteran Tanguay beat Gibson to give the Avs a 5-4 victory.
"If you went down the lineup, I thought Wagner, Santorelli, Friberg and Sekac were good, and I thought Rakell was good early," said Boudreau. "I thought Despres had a good game. Theodore logged a lot of minutes. Nick Ritchie was banging the body, going to the net and doing what he was supposed to do. Those are positive signs."
Anaheim’s preseason schedule continues Friday at Honda Center vs. the Los Angeles Kings and Saturday at SAP Center against the Sharks. After a Sept. 29 contest at Staples Center against the Kings, the Ducks host the Avalanche on Thursday, Oct. 1 before closing out the preseason at home on Saturday, Oct. 3 vs. San Jose.