The Ducks, no matter the opponent, continue to struggle out of the gate.
Sure, they scored first Wednesday against the New York Islanders, the only time they’ve done so in four games this season. But following the first-minute goal, the Ducks were thoroughly outskated — and outplayed — over the first third of the contest.
The Islanders outshot them 21-5, a familiar pattern that’s played out over the four-game homestand to open the season, though the Ducks ended up with the victory.
Now, they have to figure what ails them as the Ducks head on the road for a Friday contest against the Colorado Avalanche, a young, fast group.
“We’re going to have to find another formula as far trying to stimulate our group from the start of the game,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We scored our goal, killed a penalty and then we go flat. We relied on our goaltender to bail us out.
“Your goaltender can only do that so many times. That has to change with our group. We played better after the first period and got ourselves back into the hockey game.”
Whatever Carlyle says in the locker room between periods must be convincing, because the Ducks usually play better as the game rolls on.
They scored four unanswered goals over the final 25 minutes in the season-opening victory over the Arizona Coyotes to dig out of a 4-1 hole. The Ducks found a third-period short-handed goal in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers to force overtime and pick up one point.
Sooner or later, though, they need to force a team on their heels early.
“Right now it seems like the start of hockey games have been difficult for us, but we’re not going to critique a win,” Carlyle said. “We won the hockey game. If we had to do that every game and weather the storm and win every game, I don’t think we’d complain, but that’s just not the right way.”
It’s also not the realistic way. John Gibson has kept the Ducks in games with his stellar play, particularly in Wednesday’s victory with 20 of his 39 saves in the opening period.
The 24-year-old hasn’t had a rest yet through four games, partly because he’s played well, and partly because No. 2 goalie Ryan Miller remains on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
“There’s just some work that we still have to do. It’s early in the season,” said Gibson, who has a .920 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against-average. “We just want to make sure we keep getting better with each and every game.”
Surely, Gibson is playing better each time out. He allowed four goals on 30 shots (.867 save percentage) in the opener, and from there his numbers have steadily improved.
DUCKS AT COLORADO AVALANCHE
When: Friday, 6 p.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Update: The Ducks (2-1-1) are still six players away from full strength following the returns of Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Eaves. … Third-line winger Ondrej Kase was placed on injured reserve after absorbing an elbow to the head from Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton on Monday. ... The Avalanche (3-1-0, 6 points) have surprised behind strong play from goaltender Semyon Varlamov (.945 save percentage, 1.67 GAA) after the most disappointing season of his career.