Ouch. The 6-3 rout of the Ducks by the Dallas Stars hurt. It was the three goals in three shots in less than a minute in the third period that did Anaheim in.
For the first two periods of play, things looked good. Emerson Etem scored at 6:06 of the first period to give the Ducks the early lead.
They held on to that lead until midway through the second period when Antoine Roussel got his first of two goals at 13:13. Anaheim persisted and got back the lead late when Nick Bonino made it 2-1 with :36 seconds left.
Then came the third period.
It was a 1-2-3 punch that knocked out the Ducks and sent them reeling. First Cody Eakin scored at 5:25. Stephane Robidas gave Dallas the lead just :25 seconds later. And if you thought the horn in Dallas had blown enough, :28 seconds later Ryan Garbutt, who was suspended after these two teams met the last time for head hunting Dustin Penner, made it 4-2.
So much for Jonas Hiller looking stellar, as he had in the previous two games, when he shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning and allowed only two goals in Phoenix. This 27 save performance looked a lot more pedestrian.
"We were still talking on the bench about, 'OK, it's a tie game, let's get this thing under control,' said coach Bruce Boudreau. "And next it's 3-2. It just went boom, boom. We just go with some inexperienced guys out there and they go brain dead for a bit."
To say the Ducks are having injury issues would be an understatement. The defense has been decimated. Sheldon Souray has been out all season. Francois Beauchemin remains day to day with an upper body injury. Bryan Allen was injured in the previous game and did not make the trip to Dallas. Luca Sbisa tore his tendon in a fight against Tampa Bay.
Who is left? Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, rookies Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, Mark Fistric, who has been a healthy scratch for most of the year, and Nolan Yonkman, called up from the AHL. Not exactly a stellar blue line, no offense.
It wasn't just the defense.
"I have to take full responsibility for that tying goal there," Etem said of Eakin's goal. "I just let off, took my foot off the gas pedal and I need to stay with that guy."
Roussel's second goal at 12:08 put the game out of reach, despite Penner's power play tally at 13:25.
Nothing else got past Dan Ellis, who got the start despite the fact that Kari Lehtonen was penciled in.
"I just decided that [Ellis] needed to play," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "That's it."
The fact that Ellis, who stopped 28 shots, used to be a back up for the Ducks probably worked into the equation, too.
An empty net goal from Alex Chiasson at 19:01 finished things off.
"It just can't happen," said Andrew Cogliano after the game. "We've won two games in a row. We're feeling good. This is a tough building to play in. We're up 2-1 after the second in a key position. Mental mistakes end up costing us the game. It just can't happen for a team like us. We could have taken over first place again tonight. Now we have five really tough games coming up and we have to sharpen up."
At practice on Wednesday morning, the previous evening's lapses were still fresh.
"I'm telling them we have to be better," said Boudreau. "I don’t understand what the thought process is on a lot of them. We went through all the video on the breakdowns from last night and it’s stuff we just talked about in the third period. Guys are losing their concentration a little bit quicker than they’ve done in the past. It’s one of the things we worked on today and we'll work on it more tomorrow. Hopefully this weekend and beyond, we’re a lot better at it."
It can't get much worse than three in :53 seconds.
In other notes: Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly were sent to Norfolk in anticipation of Saku Koivu's return from a concussion. Koivu was finally cleared for contact in practice and will be able to play against Calgary on Friday afternoon if he has no further symptoms.