Missed chances and opportunities were the story of the 5-2 defeat of the Ducks by the Phoenix Coyotes. An inability to put the puck in the net, despite juicy opportunities to do so, cost the Ducks two critical points in the standings and an even juicier opportunity to move into 8th place in the standings.
Instead, the Ducks are reassessing what went wrong and contemplating it from 10th place in the Western Conference.
Former Duck, Ilya Bryzagalov, can be credited for a lot of what went right for the Coyotes. Bryzgalov, who was given away for free to Anaheim’s Pacific Division rivals, has enjoyed defeating his former team over the past few years. Bryzgalov was given away in favor of Jonas Hiller. Bryzgalov was a Vezina trophy candidate last season. Hiller has been out for the past six weeks with vertigo.
“You have to tip your hat to Bryz,” said Todd Marchant. “He really kept them in there and made some big stops. It could have been a much different game if we had gotten some by him early.”
The Ducks did get one by him early in the first period, with the first of two goals by Corey Perry. The problem was that everything was getting by Dan Ellis at the other end.
Taylor Pyatt tied up the game less than two minutes later and Lauri Korpikoski gave the Coyotes the lead at 17:33.
The Ducks had plenty of chances in the second period, but between Bryzgalov and his teammates, there were no lucky bounces for Anaheim.
Perry tied up the game again with a power play goal at 15:46 with a nice redirect of Cam Fowler’s shot. It didn’t last long.
Korpikoski got his second of the game a minute later and then with Marchant in the penalty box, David Schlemko made it 4-2 at 19:17. Schlemko’s shot not only went through traffic, but right through Ellis’ legs.
“It just seemed like pucks found ways to get through him,” said coach Randy Carlyle.
Which is why Ray Emery took over in the third period of the game. It was Emery’s first appearance in an NHL game since February 1, 2010.
“I’ve been waiting to get in the net,” Emery said. “I didn’t want it to be under that circumstance. It got my feet. I tried to give the boys a chance to stick around in the game.”
Emery looked thrilled to be in net, despite the score, probably because it was unclear if he would ever play in the NHL ever again after major hip surgery. Emery at least gave the Ducks a chance, stopping 9 shots, but the Ducks did not give themselves a chance.
An empty net goal from Shane Doan with less than a minute left in the game was the final nail in the coffin and the Ducks left the ice with a sick feeling in their gut.
“These points are too important,” Marchant said. “It was a four-point game tonight. We certainly know what is at stake. Having faced it last year, not playing in April and May, we don’t want to get there again. It has to start here on Wednesday.”
The question remains if the Ducks can still determine their own fate. Chances like this one against a division foe can’t be given up so lightly. The Ducks need to fight a lot harder.
New battle on Wednesday against St. Louis. Same needed result – must win.
In other notes: Jason Blake returned to the line up after missing several games with a hand laceration.