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    Leo Carlsson scores in impressive NHL debut, but Ducks lose to Stars
    • October 20, 2023

    ANAHEIM — The future might belong to any one of several promising prospects in this year’s NHL draft, but Thursday night’s match at Honda Center was Leo Carlsson’s alone as the Ducks center and this year’s No. 2 overall pick scored a goal in his NHL debut.

    Despite the emotion surrounding Carlsson, the Ducks fell to the Dallas Stars, 3-2, at Honda Center, losing to a legitimate Western Conference contender that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 and the conference finals last season.

    Carlsson hit the ice to cheers from a home crowd eager for the start of a new era after five straight non-playoff seasons. He factored into the Ducks’ first goal by creating traffic at the net front and then received a standing ovation after he buried a pass off the rush from Troy Terry, who also scored the Ducks’ first goal. John Gibson made 21 saves.

    Miro Heiskanen has been the engine for the Stars since his arrival in Dallas and he delivered a game-winning goal and two power-play assists Thursday. Joe Pavelski notched a goal and an assist and his linemate Roope Hintz also scored a goal. Jake Oettinger made 27 saves.

    Carlsson’s goal came just 61 seconds into the third period, knotting the score at 2-all. Terry stripped Jamie Benn in the Ducks’ zone and carried the puck across three lines before slipping the puck across to Carlsson for a no-doubt, top-shelf wrist shot past an outstretched Oettinger.

    With 9:33 to play, Carlsson nearly came up with his second equalizer of the night, but the 18-year-old Swede’s wrist shot was denied by Oettinger.

    If that seemed anticlimactic, Heiskanen’s go-ahead goal elevated the word’s meaning to new heights as his attempted centering pass became an own-goal (credited to Heiskanen) off the stick of Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.

    While Thursday’s game might have helped close a bit of the gap between the first and second picks in this year’s draft – Chicago’s Connor Bedard’s scouting report has every superlative but “messianic” and he went first overall – it did little to close the gap between first and second periods that the Ducks often displayed last season under Coach Greg Cronin’s predecessor Dallas Eakins.

    They out-shot Dallas 17-7 and headed into the first intermission with a 1-0 advantage. But they were shelled 12-1 in shots on goal in the second, leaving them trailing 2-1 through 40 minutes.

    The Ducks’ top trio opened the scoring less than five minutes into the match when a Trevor Zegras one-timer from the blue line generated a rebound that popped directly to Terry for a putback goal, his first of the season. Had the rebound gone to the other side, it would likely have been Carlsson’s first goal. While he had to settle for a plus-one, rookie defenseman Pavel Mintyukov achieved a milestone with his first NHL assist.

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    But the Stars tilted the ice, thanks in part to penalty trouble that the Ducks couldn’t abate. They took three penalties in the period, two of which led to goals while the third nullified a power play just 20 seconds into the opportunity.

    First, it was Heiskanen, Pavelski and Hintz connecting a nearly 200-foot passing sequence that sent Hintz in on Gibson with a nitrogen boost to bury his first goal of the season midway through the frame. Then, it was Pavelski with a deft deflection of Heiskanen’s shot to give Dallas its first lead with less than two minutes to play in the second period.

    Yet despite some old patterns returning, the Ducks played a sound third period, sending them into a weekend that will have them playing a back-to-back set.

    More to come on this story.

    ​ Orange County Register