The statistic that told the story of the Ducks' 6-3 loss to the Flames on Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome wasn't that they gave up three goals on four shots at John Gibson in the second period and one on Calgary's first two shots in the third period, though those certainly were ugly.
The sour expressions worn by players and Coach Bruce Boudreau after the Ducks had lost three straight games in regulation for the first time this season stemmed from another appalling number, in a category that goes to the composition and heart of their team.
"When you get three hits after two periods when you're a team like we have, that's the troubling part," Boudreau said. "I'm pretty disappointed right now."
As well he should be. The Ducks took a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Ryan Getzlaf scored two minutes and 51 seconds into the game, the first on his conversion of a giveaway by Calgary's David Jones and the second on the Ducks' first power-play goal in nine games.
"You score two quick goals and you think, 'OK, everything's going good,'" Boudreau said.
The Flames made him think again. Renowned for staging late comebacks, they tied it before the period ended on goals by Matt Stajan and Johnny Gaudreau and scored three more times in the second by capitalizing on the Ducks' defensive zone turnovers and unwillingness to use their size and brawn.
Stajan and Gaudreau each scored twice to lead the Flames, who won for the fourth time in five games and moved two points ahead of the Kings in the scramble for third place in the Pacific division and an automatic playoff berth.
"There's no reason why we should have one hit at the end of one period," Kesler said. "That's what that team can do when you give them an easy game."
Way too easy.
"It came down to will and want," said Boudreau, whose team has been outscored in the second period this season, 83-66. "They wanted to win battles and they won the battles on the boards and the one-on-one battles. And that's one thing, for the most part this year, we've taken pride in."
Getzlaf, who played his junior hockey here and was honored this year when a banner with his image was raised to the rafters, moved into second place on the franchise scoring list, with 670 points, with that first goal. But he took two penalties in the second period and the Flames converted both power plays for their fourth and fifth goals, aided by a Cam Fowler giveaway on the fourth goal.
Gibson, who wasn't blamed by Boudreau, said he sensed the game slipping from the Ducks' grasp "right away. You could see it. They pushed and we weren't ready for it. I wasn't good enough. We had a lot of mistakes."
The Ducks trimmed Calgary's lead to 5-3 when Hampus Lindholm scored from the slot with 1:01 left in the second period but Jiri Hudler sealed it at 15:17 of the third period after Gibson came out to play the puck and missed it.
"We played a great game in Vancouver the other night and didn't get the result," Getzlaf said of the Ducks' 2-1 loss Monday to the Canucks. "I thought we came out pretty good tonight and after we got those two quick goals we all quit playing, including me. We weren't moving the puck well. We weren't getting out of our zone. They jumped on us and we weren't able to recover."
He accepted blame for the Flames' power-play scores in the second. "You never want to be the guy sitting in that box when that happens," he said. "It kills momentum for our team and I've got to accept that. I let the guys down in that aspect, in taking those kind of penalties. It's not acceptable and I'll wear that for the next one."
The next one will be at Minnesota, which promises no relief because the Wild has been among the NHL's hottest teams since the All-Star break. The Ducks lately have been consistent only in their inconsistency, a bad habit with the playoffs starting in a month.
"Everybody thinks that oh yeah, we're in first place and that but it's within 10 points of the wild card and we've played more games than everybody else," Boudreau said. "So we've got to get our act in gear right now."