ANAHEIM -- The who, what, when, where, which, and hows of the Ducks exhibition game Wednesday night against the visiting Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center.
Ducks 3, Canucks 2
Who scored for the Ducks? Somewhere between the meltdown by the Red Sox and the walk-off home run by Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, the Ducks took their final lead lead on a power-play goal by defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky with just under 15 minutes remaining. Another defenseman, Cam Fowler, gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a nifty spin move around Mike Duco at the point and a close-range shot that caromed off the stick of Mark Mancari and into the net. Just over a minute later, Bobby Ryan made it 2-0 when he went end to end with the puck and beat Vancouver goalkeeper Roberto Luongo with a well-placed wrist shot from the slot.
When was the crowd most into the game? The final minutes of the first period were buzzing as the Ducks took the 2-0 lead, but the crowd was on the edge of their seats the final 2 ½ minutes of the game, as the Ducks were forced to kill a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 57 seconds. The Ducks then had to finish off another two-man advantage down the stretch when Vancouver pulled Luongo, but Andrew Gordon made a great effort to clear the puck with about 25 seconds remaining and another rookie forward, Devante Smith-Pelly, broke up a pass in the defensive zone and cleared the puck just before the game clock expired.
Which player looked the best? Fowler, coming off a stellar rookie season, played like a fourth forward on the ice. His goal was a thing of beauty, as he made Duco look like the Statue of Liberty with his spin move, carried the puck to the bottom of the right face-off circle and enjoyed the benefit of a fortunate bounce. He also had the first assist on Visnovsky’s goal, sliding the puck over at just the right moment to give Visnovsky some open net. Fowler earned first star of the game and Ducks goalkeeper Jonas Hiller the second.
How did Hiller look in his first game at home since last season? Hiller, who missed most of the second half of last season with vertigo symptoms, was simply magical, stopping 31 shots, including three on the final 5-on-3. He tracked the puck with laser-like quickness, which was never more evident than late in the second period when he snared a wrist shot from Duco that was making a B-line for the top-left corner. “It's great to feel right," he said. "I feel like I'm really sharp on the puck.”
What area needs the most improvement? The Ducks are becoming famous for their slow starts, not just in games but out of the gate to start the season. In the last four years since they won the Stanley Cup, they're a combined 13-26-5 in the first 44 games, compared to 12-0-4 during the Stanley Cup year of 2006-07. Against Vancouver, they looked like they needed jumper cables the first two minutes, as their top line of Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf got hemmed in their own zone and needed Hiller to bail them out.
Where do the Ducks go from here? Following their final local practice Thursday, the Ducks will host the Kings on Friday night at Honda Center and then leave for Europe the following morning. They're scheduled to play Jokerit of the SM-Liga in an exhibition game Tuesday in Helsinki, Finland, followed by their season opener Oct. 7 against the Sabres in the same building. After that, they’ll travel to Stockholm, Sweden for a game Oct. 8 against the New York Rangers, then return to Southern California early the next week. Their first home game of the regular season is scheduled for Oct. 14 against San Jose.