ANAHEIM — There are words to describe the Ducks’ play during their 5-1 loss to the opportunistic Minnesota Wild on Friday night at Honda Center. Lifeless is one. Lackluster is another. Disjointed is one more. Flat and uninspired also would fit perfectly, as would dull and disappointing.
After it seemed the Ducks had figured out a few things during a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, they took one or two giant steps backward against the Wild. It wasn’t difficult to pick apart their play Friday in their fourth game in six nights.
Left wing Nick Ritchie’s return to the ice after a six-game layoff because of an upper-body injury certainly didn’t inject any fizz into the Ducks’ lineup. It did give Coach Randy Carlyle a more experienced lineup, although it didn’t translate to improved play.
The Ducks were in trouble from the start, giving up a goal to Jordan Greenway only 1:46 into the game. All five Ducks skaters went to the right wing, too puck-focused to notice Greenway skating unmarked down the center of the ice. Joel Eriksson Ek found him and Greenway beat John Gibson.
It was the eighth time in nine games the Ducks had given up the first goal of the contest. Not surprisingly, they are 2-5-2 during that dreary stretch of hockey, one of many issues that’s bedeviled them since they began the season with a 5-1-1 record.
The Ducks regressed in other areas, as well. They gave up another barrage of shots, putting Gibson under siege for most of the game. The Ducks went into the game giving up an average of 36.5 shots per game. Only the Ottawa Senators had given up a higher average (39.3) going into Friday.
Minnesota outshot the Ducks 43-21.
Ducks right wing Patrick Eaves took a double minor for high-sticking 7:05 into the game, which changed the momentum swiftly and certainly. Although the Wild couldn’t capitalize, they managed to sustain pressure and put the Ducks back on their heels.
The Ducks seemed to recover toward the end of the period by playing a more physical game. Eaves leveled Minnesota’s Zach Parise. The Ducks’ Luke Schenn, back in the lineup after sitting out six in a row as a healthy scratch, fought Marcus Foligno. Ryan Getzlaf checked Greg Pateryn to the ice.
All things considered, the Ducks were fortunate the score wasn’t worse than 1-0, though.
Soon enough, they trailed 3-0.
Mikael Granlund set up Jason Zucker for a goal with a pass from below the goal line for a 2-0 lead for Minnesota at 3:19 of the second period. Zucker then set up Granlund for a nearly identical goal and what sure looked like a commanding 3-0 lead at 7:17 of the middle period.
Pontus Aberg’s power-play goal at 16:53 of the second cut the Ducks’ deficit to 3-1 and doubled their scoring chances from one to two. Hampus Lindholm set up his fellow Swede with a cross-ice pass from the left wing to right, faking goalie Alex Stalock out of position.
Aberg roofed his shot from the lower portion of the right circle for his fifth goal of the season, tying Jakob Silfverberg for the team lead. The Ducks claimed Aberg off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers two days before the season-opening game Oct. 3.
Jonas Brodin and Granlund added third-period goals.
More to come on this story.
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