On the morning after the worst playoff debacle in the Ducks' history, coach Randy Carlyle was still trying to figure out why his team had unraveled so quickly in the second period of the 8-1 loss to San Jose that pushed them one loss away from playoff elimination.
"I just think it got to a point where it didn't matter what we did, we were shooting ourselves in the foot. We were self-destructing," he said Tuesday. "So when you self-destruct you've got to look yourself in the mirror and say, 'Why?' That's what we're doing."
Good question. And his conclusion was …
"I didn't say I had the answer. I said, 'Why?' " he said. "And it would be easy to say, 'We did this, we did that.' There was a laundry list."
From giving up six goals off the rush in this series by Carlyle's count — more than two or three off the rush is usually a lot in tight-checking playoff hockey — to losing their composure and gifting the Sharks eight power plays Monday, the Ducks have committed a litany of sins while falling in a 3-0 hole. Should they win Game 4 on Wednesday at SAP Center, Game 5 will be Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Honda Center.
The Sharks have played well. Goaltender Martin Jones has stopped 98 of 101 shots, their offense has been opportunistic, and a team that for so long was built around the scoring of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau has become admirably balanced. Fifteen Sharks have recorded at least one point (to six for the Ducks) and all 12 San Jose forwards earned a point Monday, producing the most goals an opponent has scored against the Ducks in a playoff game.
"I think it was a night that you want to forget as soon as possible. It was a night that was I think embarrassing for everyone involved in our organization," left wing Andrew Cogliano said.
Cogliano also offered an incisive reply when asked how the Ducks can stop the Sharks' speed.
"Anyone looks fast on two-on-ones," he said. "They're a good skating team. They push the pace. But I'd look pretty fast going down the ice with odd-man rushes all night, too."
While finishing 10-1-1 and gaining the home-ice advantage they've squandered, the Ducks were often shaky but found ways to get points. Now, they're finding ways to lose.
"Over 60 minutes if you keep playing the way we can and everyone plays to our structure I think we're going to be more successful than we're not," defenseman Hampus Lindholm said.
That has been rare. They've relied all season on their defensemen to fuel their offense, but those defensemen have made a flurry of bad reads and haven't gotten much support from the forwards. Add the misfortune of the tumble by Brandon Montour that gave San Jose a two-on-one break and set up Joonas Donskoi's go-ahead goal early in the second period Monday and it was a fiasco.
"You don't make the playoffs and have 100-something points if you're a team that's vulnerable to the rush. This series, we've been vulnerable to the rush," Carlyle said. "We're scratching our heads, too."
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer anticipated the Ducks' defensemen would lead or supplement the offense and he has turned it to the Sharks' advantage.
"When they overextended we made them pay the other way, which is nice to see because there's times this year we didn't do that and let other teams hang around," DeBoer said after his team's optional practice Tuesday.
The Sharks have played with intelligence and poise. That's unlike the Ducks, who have been short-handed for 25 minutes 2 seconds in three games and have yielded a playoff-worst six power-play goals. Some of that is on Carlyle, some on uninspiring on-ice leadership, and some on the organization's worship of the heavy hockey that, without speed to complement it, no longer wins championships.
"Have we played the smartest series? No. Have we executed? No. Have we done a lot to win three games? Here and there we probably played some good hockey but ultimately, no," Cogliano said.
"But one thing's for sure: We're not going to quit. We have guys on this team and including myself and a lot of players and our whole team in general that don't have that in them. … I think most importantly we're going to play smarter in terms of giving ourselves the best chance, because I think the last three games we just haven't done that, and that's why we've lost. If we can give ourselves the best chance to have success and bring our heart and bring our pride and character to the game, we'll give ourselves a feel, we'll have a good opportunity to win. If they're going to beat us, we're going to force them to play their best game."
Losing with dignity might be the most the Ducks can hope for, though they all said they expect to prolong the series. "You get a win [Wednesday] night and you take it back home and you go from there," center Adam Henrique said. "You just really take it one day, one game at a time."
The Ducks are running out of time. They have only themselves to blame for that.