ANAHEIM — Five steps forward, one step back.
The Ducks’ five-game winning streak ended with a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at Honda Center, a game that spiraled out of their control in the opening minutes of the third period, not that they ever had anything resembling a firm grasp on the proceedings.
The Ducks had outscored the opposition 10-0 in third periods, plus overtime, during their five-game winning streak. Then the Hurricanes’ Brett Pesce scored 1:56 into the third to give Carolina a 2-1 lead and Justin Williams made it 3-1 at 2:57.
The Ducks had a two-man advantage for 1:16, but couldn’t click on the power play despite some sustained pressure during the sequence. They didn’t create the odd-man situations near the crease to score and they also didn’t get the necessary traffic in front of the net to deflect perimeter shots.
Sebastian Aho scored an empty-net goal in the closing moments.
Jakob Silfverberg gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead with a short-handed goal on a deflection of Jake Dotchin’s perimeter shot at 11:47 of the first period, his 100th in the NHL in his 445th game. Clark Bishop tied it for the Hurricanes at 1:53 of the second, his first NHL goal in his 11th game.
The Ducks lost their way for an extended stretch in the second. John Gibson’s superb goaltending kept them from trailing, though. He made several excellent saves in the second, after a strong showing in the first period, when the Hurricanes outshot the Ducks 13-6.
Rickard Rakell sat out for the first time this season, sidelined by an ankle injury suffered during the Ducks’ victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. Coach Randy Carlyle couldn’t say when Rakell might be able to play again other than to say he was “unavailable” to play Friday.
Carlyle shuffled his line combinations to start Friday’s game, slotting right wing Daniel Sprong onto the top line with center Ryan Getzlaf and left wing Pontus Aberg. Their union didn’t last as Carlyle did more mixing and matching as he searched for more offense.
Sprong skated with center Adam Henrique and left wing Nick Ritchie late in the second period and Ondrej Kase replaced Sprong on Getzlaf’s line as Carlyle tried to find a combination that would click and break a 1-1 deadlock in the middle period.
One of the keys to the Ducks’ five-game winning streak was stability. Their lineup was largely the same in victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Blackhawks. Rakell was the Ducks’ second-leading scorer with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists).
An absence of any one of the Ducks’ top producers figured to hurt a team that struggles to score. The Ducks went into the game with 74 goals. Carolina was one of only four teams in the 31-team NHL with fewer goals at the start of business around the league.
Then again, the Ducks scored 10 goals in their past two games, including four in Wednesday’s victory over the Blackhawks. It came three nights after they erupted for a season-high six in a 6-5 comeback victory over the Capitals in the final game of a five-game trip.
Carolina doesn’t play the same sort of wide-open style that the Blackhawks and Capitals prefer, so Friday’s game didn’t figure to have the same sort of scoring chances as the Ducks’ previous two. The Ducks scratched out a 2-1 overtime win over the Hurricanes last Friday in Raleigh, N.C.
The rematch was more of the same.
More to come on this story.
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