The Anaheim Ducks have separated themselves from the pack by finishing strong for much of the 2014-15 season. They took the Western Conference lead by doing just that against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.
Nashville carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, but the game flipped in a pretty staggering fashion.
Ryan Getzlaf scored the 2-1 goal a little more than two minutes into the final frame, but things really escalated several minutes later. Kyle Palmieri tied the game up 9:16 into the third period while Nate Thompson connected for the game-winner just 35 seconds later. One can assume that the Predators’ felt deflated once Cam Fowler scored a power-play insurance marker five minute later.
A matter of fatigue?
Perhaps Nashville ran out of gas to some extent? They were closing off a back-to-back set and a four-game road trip while Anaheim held home-ice advantage and were relatively well-rested.
Beyond the scoring, the stats make an argument in that regard, as the Ducks generated a 15-4 shot advantage in the third period after Nashville generated a 23-13 differential through the first 40 minutes.
Whatever explanation you want to trot out, the bottom line is that the Ducks won, and swept their season series in the process.
It’s also clear that teams shouldn’t take third periods lightly when they happen against Anaheim.
The Ducks now lead the NHL with 11 wins when trailing after two periods. They’ve also generated a remarkable goal differential in third periods, as they’ve scored 79 goals while only allowing 58.
One can debate if this all boils down to luck or if the Ducks seem to possess that “extra gear” – maybe Bruce Boudreau somehow stacks the deck so they tire opponents out late? – but either way, Anaheim sure is showing a remarkable tendency to close the deal.
Goaltending was a big reason why the Boston Bruins came into Sunday on a hot streak, but Braden Holtby showed that the Washington Capitals boast an outstanding netminder, too.
Holtby stopped all 32 Bruins shots as Washington won 2-0 tonight, securing the top wild card spot for the Capitals. They now have a two-point lead over Boston for that position and enjoy a healthy margin against the East’s bubble teams.
Holtby is impressing if you look at things from a short-term perspective:
… Yet he’s had a great season overall, too, as he now has eight shutouts and 33 wins in 2014-15.
Now, let’s not forget that Tuukka Rask was strong in his own right, as you can see most obviously from this sprawling stop:
Holtby obviously stole the show, though, as Washington’s two goals were clearly enough for the win. (Nicklas Backstrom collected two assists, setting a new Capitals franchise record for that stat.)
It wasn’t a perfect game in every way for the Capitals, as Alex Ovechkin experienced this, um, uncomfortable moment:
Still, he seems OK, and winning a big game probably helps to soothe that pain a bit.
Time will tell if the Ottawa Senators have enough time to chase down a 2015 playoff spot, but either way, Andrew Hammond is making the most of this run.
Sunday set a new mark as far as fan interaction goes for “The Hamburglar,” as a fan threw a hamburger onto the ice after Hammond powered a 2-1 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers and, well … just look:
Wow. If this thing takes off like plastic rats in Florida, we could see some greasy nights in Ottawa.
Again, it’s been quite the run for the 27-year-old:
Check out a few more Hammond-related stats:
There’s not much to this post, but sometimes, you just want to feast your eyes on some big-time goals.
First, let’s check out Vladimir Tarasenko’s sinister snipe against the Dallas Stars, which served as a game-winner for the St. Louis Blues in a 3-0 decision:
That goal marks Tarasenko’s 34th of 2014-15.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Jakub Voracek has had a fantastic season, but he was struggling to score even-strength goals, until he beat Ottawa Senators goalie Andrew Hammond with this one:
Voracek still has 21 goals this season anyway, so it’s not like he’s been totally snake-bitten.
Nicklas Backstrom earned the 419th assist of his already-impressive career on Sunday, setting a new Washington Capitals record … for now.
The helper came on a John Carlson power-play goal:
The really interesting is that Alex Ovechkin could easily pass him in this game.
Ovechkin, Backstrom and Michal Pivonka came into Sunday tied for the franchise mark with 418 assists. Pivonka obviously will be passed soon enough, but the two faces of the Capitals franchise will duke it out for that mark going forward.
To Nicklas Backstrom’s credit, he’s played more than 200 fewer games than Ovechkin. Considering their relationship (Backstrom is the Montana to Ovechkin’s Rice, if you will), one would assume that the slick Swede will finish with the assists mark while Ovechkin should finish with the Caps’ goals and points records.
Regardless, it really is another reminder that Backstrom should probably have an All-Star Game on his resume, right?
Update: Backstrom added a second assist to give himself 420 and helped Washington win 2-0 (more on that here).