Four wins on the road for the Ducks could not be followed up with a win at home against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. Eight of their past ten games have been on the road, and the Ducks have performed admirably by winning seven of them.
Those two games at home, where they have been strong all season? Both of them have been losses, including a wild offense laden game between Anaheim and the Capitals. Goaltending was not the highlight in the 7-6 loss for either team.
Semyon Varlamov let in three goals and only got one period to play for the Capitals before being benched in favor of Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth did not fare any better, also letting in three goals.
On the Anaheim side, Curtis McElhinney got the start with Jonas Hiller out again on IR with dizziness symptoms. McElhinney, who has been terrific of late, let in seven goals, not all of which were his fault. Barring injury, you knew that McElhinney was going to have to gut it out for the whole game. Nothing against Timo Pielmeier, but in a game like that one, it would not matter who was in net.
“It was frustrating and a difficult night,” McElhinney said. “The offense put up six goals and we end up giving up seven. A better performance was needed from me tonight and it wasn’t there. It’s disheartening to let the boys down like that.”
The game went back and forth and back forth, not being decided until there was less than two minutes to go. Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and three assists, as did linemate Corey Perry. One of Perry’s goals was shorthanded (his third of the year) and he is sixth in points in the NHL.
Teemu Selanne made an inexplicable error by turning over the puck to Brooks Laich in the first period. Laich was right in front of McElhinney who had no chance on the point blank shot. Selanne redeemed himself a couple minutes later with his 18th goal of the year. He is now one goal away from tying Joe Sakic on the all time goals list at 625.
Alex Ovechkin scored while falling to the ice and his teammate, Alexander Semin had a hat trick. The third goal at 18:13 of the third period was the game winner as well.
Toni Lydman, Lubomir Visnovsky and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Ducks. For Visnovsky, it was his 400th career point.
Dave Steckel and Mike Knuble did the rest of the damage for the Capitals.
Although they have been without Hiller for all but one game since the All Star break, it was clear the Ducks were concerned for the teammate’s health. Although not an excuse, the Ducks were not 100% focused.
“I’m terribly disappointed in our hockey team tonight,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle commented. “It seemed like we lost all of our focus on the things that we’ve done in the previous three weeks or a month. It was one of those games where we didn’t do enough things right, other than score six goals. When you score six goals, you should win a hockey game. That is for sure.”
Six should be enough. Early on it looked like someone was going to hit 10.
So the points were not there for the Ducks, who now find themselves in a five way tie in the Western Conference standings with 68 points. It could not be more bottle-necked if you tried. The Pacific Division is the tightest one right now, with only two points, a single game, separating first and fifth place.
The good news is that the Ducks head back out on the road for two more games before settling in for some home cooking. They will need to go back to their strong home play once they return because there is zero room for error if they want a playoff spot.
In other notes: After the game it was announced that defenseman Paul Mara had been traded to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2012 draft pick. Mara was one of nine defensemen and had been a healthy scratch for most of the past two months. Mara played for the Canadiens last year and was brought in to the Ducks after Lydman suffered double vision prior to training camp. The Ducks are still d-man heavy, but this is a start.