Ducks unable to silence the Blue Jackets at home

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Derek Lee breaks down the Anaheim Ducks' 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday at Honda Center.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – It was slow going for the Ducks in the early stages of their matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game that kickstarts a span of nine where the Ducks won’t have to leave their home state.

Columbus jumped ahead quickly off some good fortune, with Johnny Gaudreau’s slap shot bouncing off John Gibson’s mask and then caroming off Zach Werenski and into the net just 3:32 into the game. Gaudreau would double the lead exactly six minutes later on an odd-man rush, outwaiting Gibson and using a series of dekes to deftly avoid the goaltender and deposit the puck into the net.

Werenski would get his second goal of the game with 90 seconds to go in the first, pouncing on a loose puck off a shot from Boone Jenner and smacking the puck off the back of Gibson’s pads from behind the net. A turnover from Gibson led to Columbus’ fourth goal of the game from Sean Kuraly barely three minutes into the second. A curt response from Anaheim came in the form of Ross Johnston, who dropped the gloves with Mathieu Olivier off the ensuing faceoff.

Troy Terry, fresh off a three-point effort on Monday against the Buffalo Sabres, got the scoring going for Anaheim midway through the second. The forward collected a pass just inside his own zone before cruising down the middle of the ice and ripping a wrist over the right shoulder of Daniil Tarasov. The Ducks found a bit of fortune when Tarasov was high sticked by one of his teammates, allowing Mason McTavish to convert in close off a rebound. Elvis Merzlikins would replace his injured peer in net.

McTavish wasn’t finished and neither was Terry. The former potted his second goal of the game with a sly shot through the five hole of Merzlikins after Terry pushed the puck up the ice from their own zone off a defensive zone faceoff. The four-goal deficit would officially be erased thanks to a nice drive by Pavel Mintyukov, who drove up the ice before finding Leo Carlsson, who in turn fed Alex Killorn for a wide-open shot at the net. Mintyukov would register the first three-point game of his career, collecting three assists.

“I think he was a little bit slow early (after returning from injury), but he came on tonight,” said head coach Greg Cronin. I thought he was good. He was up in the play, I think his three assists reflect that.”

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Pavel Mintyukov (34) controls the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period at Honda Center. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Tarasov would return for the third period and perhaps that was the stabilization that the Blue Jackets needed. They would score twice less than two minutes apart in the first half of the third period, putting the pressure on Anaheim to strike back not once, but twice. Ultimately, the Ducks could not find the answer and Boone Jenner would seal the deal with an empty net goal in the final minute of the game.

“I think the game in general is a game of momentum shifts,” said Terry. “Maybe not that extreme (as this game). I thought we had good legs. Just little mental mistakes got us down 4-0. I was proud of how we battled to come back. It’s hard because I feel like we did a lot of good things, but––myself included––managing pucks and not giving them odd-man rushes. It feels like we’re playing good hockey for sustained periods of time and then just mistakes here and there cost us.”

“We gave them odd-man rushes,” said Cronin. “And that’s something that we value as a group, that we don’t want to give them odd-man rushes. First period, I think (we) probably had at least three, and two of them went in… It was kind of a strange game with the penalties, a lot of 4-on-4s. Just the nature of the game going back and forth.”