The last time the Ducks lost two in a row in regulation, it was the end of December/beginning of January. Since then, they have been smoking hot, making up points that are usually impossible to regain.
Despite all those points earned and made up, they still could not gain in the standings. A win against the Buffalo Sabres would have bounced them up a notch from 13th to 12th. Instead, the Ducks were shutout 2-0 by the Sabres.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Jonas Hiller, who stopped 22 shots. “But if you don’t score, it’s tough to win.”
While nothing changed for them in the standings, it still felt like they lost ground. The playoffs, previously deemed a miraculous possibility, now seem much more difficult to achieve.
You cannot fault the Ducks for their efforts against the Buffalo Sabres. They outshot them 43 – 24. They merely ran into a brick wall named Ryan Miller.
Miller was nothing short of perfect in net. He had every space covered and refused to allow anything to go past him. He denied shots that would have gone in past a lesser man. He made it impossible for anything other than the perfect shot to get by him, and even then, he probably could have stopped that, too.
No wonder Anaheim was frustrated by the end of the game.
“I felt pretty good,” said Miller. “I’ve been trying to really be calm in the net and start from in the crease. It helps that we have a lot of great back pressure. Our D is able to stand some guys up. I don’t feel I have to challenge the rush plays too much. When I do have to step up and attack, it’s more one option that I have to commit to.”
Miller, who was frustrated and angered by the Monday trade of his friend and teammate, Paul Gaustad, took it out on the Ducks.
The Ducks took out their frustrations on the Sabres.
Both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry got into two separate fights with less than :30 seconds remaining in the game. When the buzzer rang, it was pick a partner and the referees had fun handing out penalty minutes and misconducts to several players.
Even though the Ducks could not get anything past Miller, they also were not nearly as disciplined as they needed to be. They gave Buffalo five power plays and Derek Roy scored on the first one at 7:12 of the first period. That was to be the eventual game winner.
With Miller clearly on his A++++ game, Brad Boyes goal at 8:16 of the second period made the 2-0 lead by the Sabres seemingly insurmountable. It was.
Another opportunity lost and time is ticking away for the Ducks.
“[The loss] is a bit of a heartbreaker, but this team hasn’t quit in 2 1/2 months,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “I don’t expect them to quit now.”
Two more back to back games against Calgary on Friday and Los Angeles on Saturday will be make or break situations.
“It’s against two opponents that we’re chasing,” said Perry. “You win both and it’s four points. You never know where that can put you at the end of the day. They are probably the two biggest games of the year right now.”