Its tough being at the top. You only have one way to go – down. And the Ducks, who once had a solid clinch on the President's trophy, are dropping a bit.
Going 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, the Ducks have slipped in the standings, and a 3-2 loss to San Jose on Thursday night saw Anaheim lose the top spot in the Pacific Division as well. Good thing there are still 12 games left.
The Ducks played well against their rivals, but in the end, a couple of mistakes cost them the game.
"Two bad rebounds, put it right on their sticks both times," said goaltender Frederik Andersen, who still made 25 saves. "Nothing I shouldn't be able able to handle."
It wasn't all Andersen's fault. A dumb roughing penalty by Luca Sbisa in the first period led to a power play goal for the Sharks. Patrick Marleau got his 29th of the year at 13:52 to put San Jose on the board.
Mathieu Perreault, who barely missed a power play goal by one second on Tuesday night, got a power play goal at 17:40 of the second period to tie up the game. Corey Perry's shot had deflected off Antti Niemi and Perreault was in just the right place to put it behind the Finnish netminder.
The Ducks got their first lead of the game at 1:43 of the third period, with Teemu Selanne getting just his 8th of the year.
Unfortunately luck took over for the rest of the game and it was not on the Ducks' side.
Joe Thornton tied up the game at 8:11 with one of the rebounds that Andersen could not control. Anaheim might have taken the lead again but San Jose benefitted from an early whistle by the referee.
The puck had bounced off the top of the San Jose net, dropped down and was pushed in behind the goal line by the large mass of humanity in Sharks jerseys that had convened there.
"He thought I hit it with a high stick," said Perry, who shared the referee's explanation. "Obviously I didn't. You can see the replay. (The ref) sees the puck on top of the net, he thinks guys are going to hit at it. I wasn't. But that's what he said."
Adding insult to injury was the eventual game winner at 16:01 by Brent Burns. Andersen made a glorious save on the first shot, but could not control the puck, which went right to Burns.
Instead of going to overtime, the game ended in regulation and the Sharks, who were tied with the Ducks heading into the game, took the Pacific Division lead. For now. The Ducks still have a game in hand and can (should) make that up.
"We had that one-goal lead and a couple odd-man rushes against lead to the puck in our net," said Francois Beauchemin. "We battled. Our penalty kill could be a little better. We moved the puck pretty well on the power play, but we have to keep going and keep working."
If nothing else, being a little behind in the standings should serve as a bit of butt kicking motivation to do well from here on out.
"We'll be tooth and nail in every one," said coach Bruce Boudreau about the remaining 12 games. "They will be the same. That's the way it always comes down."
The Ducks next play the Florida Panthers at home on Sunday.