There's comfort in the Ducks' position as Pacific Division champions. They're assured of home-ice advantage for at least two rounds of the playoffs and await a wild-card entrant in the first round.
In Friday's 4-2 home loss to the Colorado Avalanche, there was some letting off of the gas at play.
“Tonight was not good enough,” Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said after his team squandered a 2-1 lead by allowing three second-period power plays that resulted in one goal.
In the third, Colorado center Matt Duchene took advantage of Ducks forward Corey Perry losing his grip on a puck, sprinting to deliver the decisive goal.
The Avalanche (36-30-12) also got an empty net goal and cling barely to playoff life as they head to face the Kings at Staples Center on Saturday.
The Ducks (50-23-7) have a four-point lead over the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues in the race for the Western Conference No. 1 seed, but those teams have four games remaining, while Anaheim has just two.
Anaheim's bid for the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the NHL team with the most points, is even more perilous, with the New York Rangers trailing by only two points with five games left.
“We love our home record (26-11-3), so we'd love to be able to win the West, but those are two points we didn't get,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You want to win them all, you want to go into the playoffs feeling good about yourself.”
Boudreau said he didn't intend to set a tone that Friday's game wasn't urgent by resting Ryan Getzlaf.
“There's reasons that happened — he's got a lot of bumps and bruises,” Boudreau said. “It's not like he's healthy as a horse and decided, ‘Let's just sit out.' If Ryan Getzlaf was healthy, he'd have played. We thought with the time off coming up, this would be the best time so he'd be healthy [for the postseason].
“I don't think the guys think, ‘Well, if Getzlaf's not playing, everything's light,' we wanted to win the game.”
That cause, and more, were in good shape through the first period.
Ducks forward Jiri Sekac answered a game-opening goal by Colorado's John Mitchell in less than a minute.
Sekac picked off a puck in the Colorado zone and outraced Avalanche center Marc-Andre Cliche to the net, forcing goalie Reto Berra to commit right. Sekac then flipped the puck over his stick and scored to the goalie's left.
Sekac also added the second assist on center Rickard Rakell's go-ahead goal with 2:02 remaining in the second.
“Definitely feels good, the more time you get with the same line,” Sekac said. “Your confidence goes high.”
Corey Perry took the puck from Sekac and was positioned behind the net, dishing to Rakell for a goal again sent to Berra's left.
Rakell, usually the third-line center, has three goals with two assists, and he's plus-five, since March 20.
But the Ducks, bedeviled all season by second-period blahs, had to fend off two penalty kills before finally getting burned by a third.
After defenseman James Wisniewski manhandled Duchene for a holding penalty with 4:10 left in the second, Avalanche center Gabriel Landeskog scored his 23rd goal 62 seconds later.
Berra made 15 saves in the third, and avoided a point-blank try by Anaheim's Stefan Noesen in his NHL debut.
“Without ‘Getzy,' it's a huge difference,” Sekac said. “When there's not another top goal scorer out there, [the opponent] feels better. Maybe he could've changed something. Maybe he couldn't. Tough loss, we have to keep going and get ready for the playoffs.”