The New York Islanders defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Friday night in Anaheim in the first of two regular season meetings between two teams Sports Illustrated predicted to be playing in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
After the Islanders jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck, Anaheim’s Corey Perry brought it to a one goal game in the second period when he scored on a 5-on-3 power play. But the Islanders dominated the third period and got goals from Anders Lee and Frans Nielsen to end their California road trip on a winning note and get their first regulation win at Anaheim since March 12, 2004.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
Despite the high expectations, Friday’s contest was anticlimactic
The Ducks and Islanders entered the season as serious Cup contenders, but so far, both have underwhelmed. The Ducks had a horrific 1-7-2 start to the season and had offensive woes not seen since the 1930-31 New York Americans, which also was the last Brooklyn hockey team before the Islanders moved to from Nassau Coliseum this year. Meanwhile, New York entered the game in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division, barely clinging onto the Eastern Conference’s second wild card berth, which isn’t what the Isles had in mind entering the season.
Underwhelming also described the game between the two. Both started backup goaltenders, as New York went with Thomas Greiss over Jaroslav Halak, while Anaheim started Anton Khudobin to give normal starter Frederik Andersen a night off. Meanwhile, neither offense was very exciting, as the Isles put up 29 shots on goal, while Anaheim stumbled to a measly 25. For the Ducks, who many picked to bring home a Cup, the stress is beginning to manifest.
The teams will play one more time this regular season when the Ducks travel to Brooklyn on Dec. 21. New York City is one of the top places to be around the holidays, and maybe, by then, both of these teams will have started to live up to the preseason hype and provide a better show.
Perry continues to find the back of the net for Anaheim
After he failed to score for the first 11 games of the season, Corey Perry has returned to his throne as the Ducks’ top offensive threat, finding the back of the net for the fifth time in the last six games with Anaheim’s lone goal.
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the Ducks had a 5-on-3 advantage, and after Greiss came up with several great saves in a huge cluster of players. Perry picked up a rebound and slipped it through Greiss, who had trouble sealing the post.
With that tally, Perry also moved into second on the Ducks’ franchise goal list with his 301st, passing Paul Kariya. He now only trails Ducks legend Teemu Selanne, who scored 457 goals.
While Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf still struggles to find his first goal of the season, Perry is carrying the weight offensively at the moment. His goals have been nothing short of dramatic this season. In addition to Friday’s goal, Perry’s first goal of the season came with the Ducks trailing Florida 2-1 in the final seconds when Perry sent the game to overtime in the Ducks’ eventual win. After scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win last Saturday over rival San Jose, Perry then notched two more against Edmonton Wednesday night.
The Ducks’ penalty kill continues to be a strength
The Ducks entered Friday night second in the league in penalty killing at 89.1 percent, and their PK unit continued to be strong against the Islanders, as New York was 0-for-4 on the power play. After the Isles jumped in front on Nelson's tally in the first, they had a huge opportunity to add to their lead with a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:53. Anaheim's stout penalty killers kept New York to a single solid chance during the kill, keeping the game close in the early going.
The Islanders went back on the power play in the beginning of the second, but couldn't manage a shot on net. Despite allowing several chances on a power play at the end of the second that carried into the third, the Ducks showed resiliency, kept from scoring a short-handed goal by a nice save from Greiss on Andrew Cogliano. For a team that entered Friday as the ninth-most penalized team in the league, a strong penalty-killing unit will be huge if the Ducks hope to gain ground and climb back into the playoff picture.