The shots came from near and far, from one wing and then another, but they didn’t seem to faze Ducks goaltender John Gibson on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. There was one shorthanded breakaway and then another, and Gibson handled those too.
At the other end of the ice, Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury matched Gibson shot for shot, scoring chance for scoring chance, and emerged victorious 2-1 when William Karlsson scored the tying goal late in the third period and Max Pacioretty struck seven seconds into overtime.
Fleury kept the Golden Knights within striking distance in the third by denying Rickard Rakell on a point-blank backhand try and then Ryan Getzlaf from the slot as the Ducks tried in vain to pad a precarious one-goal lead. The Ducks’ inability to make it 2-0 cost them in dramatic fashion.
Gibson made 31 saves and Fleury made 21 in an old-fashioned goaltenders’ duel.
“We battled hard,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “We were outplayed for parts of the game. We got our feet underneath us and I thought we frustrated them in the third period. But we wasted just an amazing goaltending performance by ‘Gibby.’ Again, a couple of quick mistakes and it’s in your net.”
Karlsson’s goal came with Fleury on the bench in favor of a sixth attacker at 18:38 of the third, when he slipped inside what had been a tight defense in front of Gibson. A botched faceoff to start overtime led to a 2-on-1 and Pacioretty’s goal at the seven-second mark.
“I’d have to look at it,” Ducks center Sam Steel said of the pivotal faceoff loss to Pacioretty. “It happened pretty fast. I took a second swipe at it. I’d have to take a look at it, but we’ve got to fix something there because we can’t be giving up a 2-on-1 right off the draw.”
The Ducks fell to 2-9-3 all-time against the Golden Knights, including 1-5-2 in Las Vegas. One point might have pleased them last season, or the season before, but the Ducks’ standards have risen for this one and they weren’t happy about the result Saturday.
Losing after Gibson sustained their one-goal lead for more than half of the game was unacceptable, and losing the way they did was even more so. Eakins was upset at game’s end, but he was pleased to hear some angry voices in the dressing room.
“A lot of times last year, we would leave the rink and maybe you would have given up the lead or maybe lost the game and it seemed like we were ready for the next game,” Eakins said. “The great thing tonight, for me, was there was some anger in that dressing room.
“We need that. We need a higher accountability this year.”
Max Comtois gave the Ducks a 1-0 with his third goal in two games to start the season, a tap-in off a pass from defenseman Jacob Larsson that capped a 3-on-1 break at 7:45 of the second period. Each of Comtois’ goals have been from point-blank range, a sign he’s determined to get to the net.
Fleury had no chance to prevent the goal. Neither did Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud. Larsson, skating along the right wing, faked both of them out by delivering a no-look pass to Comtois on the opposite wing that would have made LeBron James proud.
Comtois became the first Ducks player to score each of his team’s first three goals to start a season and only the 15th in NHL history to do so. Connor McDavid was the last to do it when he scored the first three goals for the Edmonton Oilers to begin the 2017-18 season.
It says a great deal about Comtois, but also about the Ducks’ lack of scoring depth and their over-reliance of Gibson. As in Thursday’s season-opening 5-2 loss to the Golden Knights, the Ducks had plenty of fine moments Saturday, but not enough of them to win.
“He was the reason we were in the game, for sure,” Steel said of Gibson. “We left him out to dry a few too many times. He’s going to make big saves, which he did, and they ended up getting one late (to tie the score), but none of the blame is on him. He kept us in there for the whole game.”