Just when you think the Ducks are taking baby steps forward, they can’t quite move far enough ahead to win a game. Instead, the inability to recover when the slightest adversity hits continues to plague Anaheim. The latest loss, 6-5 to the Chicago Blackhawks, proves that point.
The Ducks, who have been slow to get going, have managed to score first for the past two games. Not only did they score first, they had the lead going into the second period (and third period as well). Definitely progress.
A hard check on Niklas Hjalmarsson from Corey Perry dislodged the puck and led to the first goal of the game at 1:14 from Bobby Ryan. Ryan is playing with a hip contusion, a fancy word for a bruise, that he got playing against Phoenix on Wednesday.
When is the last time we heard bodies crunching along the boards at the Honda Center? Too long, but a return to some physical play certainly gave the Ducks a boost.
Andrew Cogliano extended the Ducks lead at 2:13. Corey Crawford could not control the puck and the subsequent rebound was easily handled by Cogliano, who has been a rare bright spot for the Ducks.
Chicago, who had been on a three game losing streak, finally rebounded from their slow start and go the scoring started on their side with Patrick Sharp’s first of three goals at 6:09.
Anaheim looked good and continued to press on. Teemu Selanne got his 8th goal of the year on the power play at 14:36 and things appeared hopeful.
Dave Bolland took opportunity of a Blackhawks power play and brought Chicago back within one goal again at 17:38. In an amusing turn, one of the multitude of Hawks fans proceeded to take his phone and play the Chicago goal song for those around him. The same fan later in the game suggested the Ducks use the flying V, prompting one to contemplate a phone app to silence smartasses.
The Ducks came really close to scoring in the final seconds of the first period, but ended the first 20 minutes ahead, 3-2.
However, a hockey game is a full 60 minutes, and one good period does not a game make.
In the second period, Jonas Hiller got bonked on the mask with another puck. He seems to be a puck magnet there. And then the Ducks started to discover the penalty box. Chicago, who was pouring it on, a sign of things to come, did not allow much activity in the Hawks end. Ryan did get goal #2 of the game at 8:41, only the second shot on goal for the Ducks in the middle frame.
Being outshot 26-17 by the end of the second period should have been a stern warning to Anaheim. Not to mention the shot that hit the post with barely one minute left.
It should not have been such a surprise that Chicago rapidly eviscerated the 4-2 lead that the Ducks held going into the third period.
At 1:04 Jonathan Toews brought Chicago back within one. At 1:32, Sharp got his second of the evening to tie the game. At 3:33 the rest of the world caved in for the Ducks as Sharp finished his hat trick and gave the Hawks their first lead of the game.
Hiller was out. Dan Ellis was in.
The Ducks could never recover, unable to deal with even the slightest adversity.
“They dominated the third period,” was Ryan’s accurate assessment of Chicago. “We came out in the third and it was two (goals) within, what, a minute? You could almost feel the tempo change on the bench and guys got down. That’s a sign of a team that’s been accepting it for a little while. It’s heartbreaking. If you could put your finger on it, it would be easier to get out of it.”
Another power play goal from Toews at 9:22 gave Chicago the insurance marker they wanted and the looks on the Ducks’ faces said it all.
Never one to surrender, coach Randy Carlyle pulled Ellis for the extra attacker, which usually means another goal for the opposition. Instead the Ducks were able to send fans home with the chance to drown their sorrows at Hooters with free wings.
Perry made it 6-5 with a mere 7.2 seconds remaining. Not enough time to tie up the game, but at least a positive note to end on.
“(I’m) speechless,” Hiller said after the game. “It seems like we’re almost afraid to (win).”
More like afraid that they are never going to win again.
Toronto comes to town on Sunday, so it does not get any easier for the Ducks. What they really need is an easy game (is there ever such a thing?) where things go their way and the other team implodes by taking the Ducks for granted. A single win would do a lot for morale.
IN OTHER NOTES: Maxime Macenauer and Kurtis Foster were benched for tonight’s game. Matt Beleskey, who cleared waivers earlier this week, was inserted into the line up.