Ducks can’t outshine Stars in Leo Carlsson’s NHL debut

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Leo Carlsson scored in his NHL debut, but it wasn't enough as the Ducks fell 3-2 to the Stars.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Poor discipline was the tale of the tape for Anaheim in their first game in three days. Facing off against a Dallas Stars team that had yet to convert on the power play this season, the Ducks took five penalties and conceded twice on the ensuing power plays.

“Second period, we turned pucks over,” said Ducks head coach Greg Cronin. “(Dallas) played a mature second period. They got the change game going, they put (pucks) in deep, and they didn’t turn the puck over. They put pressure on us, they broke out of their zone really quickly because we were dumping it and changing because we were turning pucks over, and for me, it’s a lesson for our group on how to manage the puck and manage a period.”

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (36) stops a shot against Anaheim Ducks center Leo Carlsson (91)during the first period at Honda Center. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The Ducks took three of their five penalties in the second period, with Dallas scoring on two of those man advantages. Joe Pavelski and Miro Heiskanen had their fingerprints all over the Stars’ offensive contributions. Heiskanen scored the game-winning goal in the third when his centering pass caromed off Cam Fowler’s skate and squeaked under John Gibson’s glove and over the goal line.

“Special teams are killing us right now,” said forward Troy Terry. “5-on-5, you see a team that is carrying the puck more. We’re faster and we’re trying to be harder to play against. I think you saw that tonight.”

Terry scored the Ducks’ first goal of the game and later assisted on Leo Carlsson’s first NHL goal. Carlsson is the second-youngest Duck (18 years and 297 days) to score a goal in his NHL debut after Mason McTavish (18 years and 256 days).

“You can see his release, the way he can just snap it,” said Terry. “Didn’t give the goalie much of a chance. It was awesome just to be a part of his first goal and I’m excited to see how many more he can get.”

Carlsson said he felt like he didn’t have that great of a second period, citing “heavy legs”, but thought his first period was good. He seemed to grow into the game with every period and he felt the same when asked about it. “First two shifts, a lot of nervousness and tension,” said the 2023 second-overall pick. “But after those two shifts, it was good.”

Cronin liked the measured approach from his young star but felt he was too measured in the second. However, he liked what he saw from Carlsson in the final frame. “Every shift in the third period, I thought he was very visible.”

Carlsson wasn’t the only one who made his NHL debut. 19-year-old defenseman Tristan Luneau also made his NHL debut for the Ducks, paired with veteran and longtime Duck Cam Fowler. His time on ice in his debut was just a hair under 16 minutes at 15:59, but much of his ice time came late in the third period as Anaheim pushed for a tying goal.

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Tristan Luneau (67) moves the puck against Dallas Stars left wing Mason Marchment (27) during the first period at Honda Center. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

“He’s an offensive guy,” Cronin said of Luneau. “You got two guys back there––young kids, 19 and 18––that were MVPs of their respective leagues for a reason. We’re down a goal so (assistant coach Brent Thompson) put him out on the ice. We doubled-shifted him and (Pavel Mintyukov) just to generate some offense.”

Similarly to the season opener in Vegas last week, Cronin felt the compete level of his team was there but the execution was a bit sloppy. He expressed frustration at the team’s preference to pass up shots in the “home plate area” at times instead of putting the puck on the net.

“We’re trying to create a mentality where there’s community scoring. One shot is an opportunity for two shots. I think we’ve got to be one of those teams that is a high-volume shot team and we’re kind of not willing to do it.”

The Ducks’ next game will be Saturday, Oct. 19 in Tempe against the Arizona Coyotes in their home opener.