Just seven games away from a time when defensive command and competitive fire are at a premium, the Ducks have given up 12 goals in the last two games.
"Mind-boggling in a lot of senses," Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said Tuesday following a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
By unraveling again in the second period — they've been outscored, 91-68, in that frame this season — the Ducks followed a 7-2 loss Sunday in New York against the Rangers by losing to a team out of the postseason picture and with one of the NHL's worst home records.
"What we're doing now is not acceptable and we're going to change it. Internally, within our locker room, we're going to change it," Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said.
"We're pretending. We're not playing to the best of our abilities. We have guys, including myself — everyone in this locker room — who need to be more accountable to each other and what we're doing."
What Anaheim (46-22-7) didn't do Tuesday was stop quality scoring chances. Columbus forward Scott Hartnell was the top beneficiary, celebrating a hat trick capped by his empty-net goal in the final minute.
Leading 2-1 in the second period, the Ducks began a sudden fall starting on a dubious call.
Columbus center Ryan Johansen was awarded a goal when the replay showed he charged toward the goal as a shot arrived, pushing John Gibson and possibly the puck across the goal line.
The NHL later announced officials on the ice had called it a goal — Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he saw no such signal behind the net — and that replay was inconclusive to negate the goal with a goalie interference ruling.
"It was under my blocker [right arm pad], I don't know if it crossed the line or not. That's why they have replay, right?" Gibson said. "I don't really think they knew what they called it."
The Ducks responded with Matt Beleskey's backhanded shot for a 3-2 lead.
Columbus maintained intense pressure on Gibson, however, and Hartnell scored 32 seconds after Beleskey.
Just 71 seconds after that, the hosts led 4-3 when a pass from behind Gibson to Columbus goals leader Nick Foligno was converted in one-time fashion.
"We just want to get better and stay more composed as a team whenever we let one in," Gibson said. "Not let them get all the momentum, try to hold down the fort."
Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky preserved his team's 14th win in 36 home games by stopping all 18 shots he faced in the third, including a point-blank, left leg pad save on Rickard Rakell.
The Ducks have a wide Pacific Division lead and are all but assured one of the top two Western Conference seeds, meaning home-ice advantage against a wild-card entrant.
There's comfort in that.
"We better not be comfortable," Getzlaf said. "We've seen it. You exit the playoffs in a hurry when you're comfortable. We're going to turn it around right now, before we get there [to the playoffs] … before it's too late."
Following an intense Monday practice, that turnaround seemed to be at play in the first period, when the Ducks crashed the net to get a Ryan Kesler goal and Cogliano out-sprinted two defensemen to make it 2-0.
"We have 99 points for a reason. The system works," Cogliano said. "We're making mistakes at this time of year that just can't happen. Trying to make plays out of nothing … a lot of times they're not there. It comes down to individual execution."