Randy Carlyle’s head must really be hurting after this one.
The Ducks coach said Wednesday’s lackluster performance in a loss to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights felt like a kick to the head.
Then surely, Friday’s matinee against the Winnipeg Jets must have felt like another blow to the noggin.
The Jets were faster, their passes crisper. And after 60 minutes, there was no doubt which team was superior.
The Ducks allowed two first-period goals off the stick of Nikolaj Ehlers, and never recovered en route to a 4-1 defeat before 16,035 at Honda Center.
“It looked like we were skating and maybe didn’t even have our skates on,” said Carlyle, whose team dropped its second consecutive game.
“We were so slow to react for the first five or six minutes. … We were a lot closer in this one than we were in the last one, so that’s the positive we’re going to take out of it.”
The Ducks’ penalty kill has been one of their few bright spots, and it was ranked No. 7 in the NHL (84.1%) heading into Friday.
The Jets’ power play is just as good, though — also No. 7 — and they won the special-teams battle with two goals on three man-advantage opportunities.
Ehlers collected a Patrik Laine rebound for an easy even-strength goal just 40 seconds into the contest and, less than five minutes later, the winger buried another on a short-side wrister.
The Ducks jumped on the board with a Francois Beauchemin slapper through traffic early in the second. Minutes later, Bryan Little answered with his third point of the contest on a power-play snipe that beat John Gibson top shelf (Ehlers also produced three points).
It’s been the case far too often recently, but the Ducks’ third period again greatly juxtaposed their opening 20 minutes. .
They played faster, harder and created numerous quality chances on their lone third-period power play, but the Ducks couldn’t find the back of the net.
There were other missed opportunities in the third. Corey Perry set up shop behind goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and fed Derek Grant, who was alone in front but fanned on the puck.
And Jakob Silfverberg fired over the net on a top-shelf attempt with Hellebuyck down.
“Right now,” Carlyle said, “those are the things that come back to haunt you.”
The Ducks were forced to pull Gibson for the extra attacker. That’s when a second Sami Vatanen turnover led to a goal — it also led to the Jets’ first marker — this time from Kyle Connor into the empty net.
“We can’t turn the puck over, simple thing,” Vatanen said.
But what’s the simple fix?
“Don’t turn the puck over,” he said matter of factly.
The Jets, with their tremendous speed advantage, were able to create space for their glut of playmaking forwards. The Ducks appeared to be in quicksand.
They must find an escape route fast as they trek on the road for six games, beginning Saturday against the Kings, and continuing Monday in Chicago.
If they don’t, that could lead to more headaches.