Rather than their usual sluggish behavior on the ice, Anaheim came out with energy and a spring to their step. After losing two in a row, they needed to turn things around and for the first half of the game, things looked promising.
Saku Koivu got the ball rolling with his first goal of the year at 9:05 of the opening frame. Teemu Selanne, who assisted on Koivu's goal, made it 2-0 at 13:39 with a beautiful little tap in from Koivu. He nearly made it 3-0 before the end of the period, but Tomas Vokoun was able to get a small piece of it and deflect it away from the net.
Selanne did capitalize on his next chance at 8:59 of the middle period. Goals number 641 and 642 for a guy who plays like someone half his age. That puts him in 13th place overall. Next guy in sight? Jaromir Jagr, who currently has 651 goals. Jagr, who is two years younger than Selanne at 39, seems motivated to remain the all-time scoring European. Won't this be a fun season to watch Selanne and Jagr duke it out?
The problem was that after going up 3-0, the Ducks started to sit back a little. You cannot do that against any team, but especially not the Washington Capitals.
The Capitals took advantage and quickly scored two goals. Joel Ward got them on the board at 13:23 and Dennis Wideman brought them within one at 16:33.
Coach Randy Carlyle wisely took a time out to settle his team down and perhaps get out a cattle prod to put a little life back into them. It worked.
The Ducks dominated the rest of the second period but could not sustain it for the remainder of the game.
Corey Perry gave the Ducks breathing room with a power play goal at 9:13 of the third period. Selanne assisted. Naturally. Selanne's four point night was historical in that he was the first 41 year old player to have a 4 point game since 1972. That is the year that Jagr was born.
Andrew Cogliano, who was inserted on the second line with Koivu and Selanne, could do nothing but marvel at Selanne.
"I can't really explain," Cogliano said. "He's just impressive. I think that's the word. It seems like now you know why he's a future Hall of Famer. He scores so many goals, I think the puck just finds him. He thinks the game better than anyone out there."
If Selanne is "slowing down" with age, you certainly cannot tell.
However, instead of a feel good Selanne focus, the Capitals stole the spotlight back.
The Capitals rallied back and came within a goal thanks to Troy Brouwer at 11:42. The Ducks were trying to hold on, but Nicklas Backstrom became the hero by tying up the game at 19:18 with Vokoun pulled for the extra attacker.
It would not have been as bad if the Ducks had held on to win in overtime or a shootout, but the Capitals added insult to injury with an overtime goal from Backstrom 2:18 into the extra period.
"How we could give up the opportunity to [get] the extra point," Carlyle wondered after the game. "We had played so well earlier in the game and then we started to self-destruct. They're an offensive team that pounced on their chances, put pressure on us and we didn't react very well."
Perry summed it up best.
"It was tough to swallow."
The Ducks have to swallow their pride and take the bitter pill of yet another road loss as they now head to New York to meet up with the Rangers for the second time this season. The first instance was in Sweden, where the Ducks won in a shootout. This time, they will be in New York and Sean Avery will be in the line-up to annoy, vex and harass the Ducks and try to get them off their game. It is what he excels at.
Anaheim will need to remain focused for a full 60 minutes and do the things right that they did in the first half of the game against the Capitals. If they can maintain that for the entire game (not just most of it), they have a much better chance of getting another notch in the win column.