ANAHEIM, Calif. – It was the Lukáš Dostál show on Wednesday night as the Anaheim netminder set a new franchise record (and career-high) for saves in a single game with 55. Dostál’s previous career-high was 46 saves against the Edmonton Oilers, set last season. Alas, his spectacular performance wasn’t enough as the Ducks fell 2-1 in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Frank Vatrano scored his second shorthanded goal off the season off a nice feed from Mason McTavish, who collected a puck from Jamie Drysdale and put it both Drysdale’s legs and the legs of Leafs defenseman Jake McCabe before passing to Vatrano, who was all alone in front.
The first game of 2024 for Anaheim also marked the return of Isac Lundeström, who made his season debut after recovering from a torn left Achilles that he suffered during the offseason. The Swede logged a shade under 11 minutes of ice time in his first game back.
“He hasn’t played in a long time,” said head coach Greg Cronin. “Tough game to get baptized against a tough team, but he’ll get better.”
“It’s right into a tough team here at home,” echoed Lundeström. “I felt like it was a lot of penalties, so kind of hard to come into the game a little bit when I don’t play PK and PP. Overall, first and second periods I think I did okay for it being the first game. Third period, lost the timing a little bit, maybe.”
There was slight concern for Pavel Mintyukov after he was on the receiving end of a dangerous hit into the boards from Bobby McMann near the red line. Ilya Lyubushkin, Mintyukov’s Russian counterpart, immediately came to the aid of his defensive partner and dropped the gloves with McMann. McMann was given a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct for the hit. Thankfully, Mintyukov was able to skate off under his own power to the locker room and was back on the bench minutes later.
The game was thoroughly controlled by the Leafs and if not for Dostál, the score could have been much larger than it ended up being. The Czech goaltender denied several grade-A scoring chances for Toronto, most notably on William Nylander multiple times.
Cronin said that he felt like the Leafs came flying out of the gate and that his team wasn’t really able to generate anything until the second period. “We didn’t really have much tonight, to be honest with you,” said Cronin. “I thought we played hard, but (Toronto) is just a really good hockey team.”
Dostál broke the single-game saves record with less than three minutes remaining in the third period, surpassing the total of 53 saves that his teammate John Gibson had set just last season in a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 10.
“The game started and (Toronto) had a couple of chances,” said Dostál. “A little lucky too that we didn’t get scored on. It helps you too because you can build up confidence and feel good in the net. Those early saves always help you.”
“(Toronto) has a heck of a team,” said Cronin. “They controlled most of the play and then whatever energy they built 5-on-5, they amplified with the power plays. Dostál kept us in there and it’s a shame we couldn’t get the win.”
“When he’s on his game, he’s an elite goalie,” continued Cronin. “I don’t know how many games he’s played since he had that little bit of a rut he ran into (in November), but he’s terrific. He’s quick. When he’s out, he’s attacking. He’s an aggressive goalie, he’s hard to beat. He’s not one of those 6-foot-5 guys that are across rosters (in the NHL). He’s a smaller guy, but he’s really quick. When he gets out and challenges you, he’s hard to beat.”
The Ducks are currently 1-4-1 on their current homestand with two games left before the eight-game homestand concludes. Their home record now stands at 6-14-1.