Ducks bested by Canucks by slimmest of margins

Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
The Ducks suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, snapping their two-game winning streak.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Coming off the back of two consecutive wins last week on Thursday and Friday, the Ducks were looking to make it three in a row against the Vancouver Canucks, who hadn’t played since Thursday and had lost six of their last seven games.

Anaheim would be without the services of goaltender John Gibson, who was ill, as well as Mason McTavish and Leo Carlsson, with both players dealing with lower-body and upper-body injuries respectively.

The Ducks did get back defenseman Cam Fowler though, who had missed the last two games due to a facial laceration. Fowler began the game with a bubble shield but opted for his regular visor after the first period. He was paired with rookie defenseman Olen Zellweger, who was recently recalled after Fowler suffered his injury.

Fowler’s time on ice clocked in at 21:49 in his return as head coach Greg Cronin leaned on the pair of lefties down the stretch. Zellweger eclipsed 20 minutes of ice time for the first time in his young career.

“Cam, give him credit,” said Cronin. “Huge cut on his face and big swelling there. He comes out and he plays. That’s tough in any sport where there’s contact when guys have an injury like that. That’s a hard game to play in and I thought he played really well.”

“I thought Zellweger was terrific. His ability to get up the ice and give you some offense at the blue line is something that we desperately need. Cam was good, he was steady. I thought Olen was good.”

The Canucks drew first blood just 1:37 into the game after Quinn Hughes got past Frank Vatrano and found Nils Höglander in the low slot. The Swedish forward made no mistake, snapping a shot past Dostál to make it 1-0 Vancouver.

Anaheim responded in short order, with Alex Killorn popping home a loose puck after Max Jones’ shot attempt was blocked. It was Killorn’s ninth goal of the season and his second in three games.

“It was a great play,” said Killorn. “Jonesy kind of finds some space in the middle. He shot it and I think it hit a skate or something and it was just Johnny-on-the-spot.”

Just two penalties were taken all game by Anaheim, a far cry from their 5.4 penalties per 60. Both penalties were killed off as well, but a mixup on defensive coverage after the second penalty was killed left Conor Garland wide open in the slot to deflect home a pass from Nikita Zadorov. That goal proved to be the game-winner.

“There wasn’t a ton of penalties in the game. That’s huge for us,” said Killorn. “Typically, that’s where (the opposition) gets a lot of opportunities (and) gets a lot of shots. But (defensively), I thought we did a good job other than that one little mishap where they ended up scoring the second goal. But that happens in games, just the way it is.”

“We were honestly sleepy in the first period,” said Cronin. “They came out with the sting on them and we kind of watched them skate around and then woke up in the second. Those games hurt.”

Mar 3, 2024; Anaheim, California, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) and Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser (6) fight for the puck during the third period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks mustered just 18 shots on goal, tied for their fifth-lowest total of the season. Several chances were either blocked by Vancouver or missed the net completely. Bo Groulx’s laser that rang the inside of the far post and out was one of their better opportunities. A prime chance for Adam Henrique all alone in the slot in the final minute of the third hit glass.

“Adam gets one right in the slot. The goalie had no idea where it was,” said Cronin. “He could have floated that in and he had that whole top half of the net. The goalie was down and he couldn’t see it and (Henrique) just shot it too high.

“I think we missed the net quite a bit,” said Killorn, who was also unable to hit the target in the closing stages of the game after a previous attempt shattered his stick. “In a lot of these games, we’re getting outshot. We’ve got to find ways to get shots. We’ve got to help our D out and they’ve got to get pucks through. We’ve got to get forwards to the net helping out, but we’ve also got to get pucks through.”