Zegras scores lacrosse goal in return, but Ducks can’t best Kraken

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Anaheim Ducks fell 3-2 to the Seattle Kraken. Trevor Zegras scored a lacrosse goal in his return from a 20-game absence.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – In their final game leading up to the holiday break, the Ducks fell 3-2 to the Seattle Kraken. This game marked the return of Trevor Zegras, who had missed the last 20 games with a lower-body injury. He slid into the role of top line center, which has typically been occupied by Leo Carlsson. However, the 2023 second overall pick suffered a sprained MCL against the Calgary Flames on Thursday and will miss four to six weeks. It’s a very positive result for the Ducks as the injury initially looked worse than the evaluation revealed.

Defenseman Radko Gudas also missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury that he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Flames. Before the game, Anaheim announced that Gudas would re-evaluated following the holiday break.

In his absence, Urho Vaakanainen drew back into the lineup and was paired with Cam Fowler. Jamie Drysdale, who also just recently returned to the lineup, was paired with Jackson LaCombe as head coach Greg Cronin opted to shift the defensive pairings around a bit with Gudas out. But once the game began, Fowler and Drysdale did appear to have their shifts staggered, with the pair playing both together and with their respective defensive partners.

Dec 23, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Jamie Drysdale (6) controls the puck against the Seattle Kraken during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

“We try to get Cam and Jamie out on offensive zone faceoffs because they are––along with (Pavel Mintyukov)––our best defensemen, so we try to take advantage of that and we were having success on faceoffs. They were getting out on the ice on offensive zone draws.”

The Kraken went up 2-0 in the first thanks to a power play goal from Oliver Bjorkstrand and an odd-man rush goal from Vince Dunn. On the second goal, Matty Beniers outwaited Jackson LaCombe long enough for the latter to go sliding past while trying to break up the passing lane before dishing to a wide-open Vince Dunn.

The Ducks’ first goal came on the power play from Frank Vatrano after Brandon Tanev was assessed a double-minor for high sticking Jakob Silfverberg. Silfverberg went immediately to the locker room but returned later in the period.

It was Vatrano’s sixth power play goal of the season and his first goal in nearly a month. His last goal before tonight was on Nov. 30 against the Washington Capitals. Vatrano also had a short trip to the locker room after blocking a pair of shots but was able to return later in the period as well.

“That’s how goal scoring is sometimes,” said Vatrano on the lack of goals for him recently. “Just trying to help the team win as much as possible if it’s not going in. But it’s great to see one go in tonight.”

The highlight of the night though for the Ducks was a lacrosse-style goal for Zegras. With six minutes remaining in the period, he came down the right wing and picked the puck up on the toe of his stick as he made his way around the net before whipping it past the right shoulder of Joey Daccord. It’s Zegras’ third lacrosse-style goal since becoming an NHLer.

“It’s something I obviously feel comfortable doing,” said Zegras. “In my opinion, it’s not like a crazy play for me to do. When that goalie goes post to post, usually you’ve got a little room upstairs. So. lucky enough, it went in.”

Mason McTavish said post-game on Thursday that he felt like he eased into the game, but it wasn’t the same for Zegras, who said that easing back into the game is so tough when everything is going at such a high speed.

“You get slotted in with two guys who have been playing really well, makes my job a lot easier. It was nice to take some faceoffs again, felt pretty comfortable in the dot. I thought it went well.”

“He was terrific,” said Cronin of Zegras. “It’s amazing, he missed two months and he was arguably the most visible guy on the ice.”

Anaheim continues to be plagued by goalscoring woes, scoring less than three goals in six of their last nine games. They have a 2-7-0 record in that span. Cronin lamented their lack of scoring depth after Saturday’s loss, saying that “guys are contributing, but they’re not getting any offense out of it.”

The Ducks’ next game is Wednesday, Dec. 27 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM PST.