The Ducks had won 10 consecutive games but proved they are human Sunday night as the streak was ended by the San Jose Sharks.
Playing the second of back-to-back games after Saturday's overtime win against Phoenix, the Ducks reached San Jose holding a comfortable seven-point lead over their second-place Pacific Division pursuer, knowing they will meet again New Year's Eve in Anaheim.
With urgency lacking against the more desperate rival, the Ducks were immediately swarmed by the more energetic Sharks and fell, 3-1, after six straight road wins. The Ducks' 13-game points streak was also ended.
"It was pretty special, doesn't happen very often," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said of the winning streak. "You're going to eventually lose one."
San Jose forward Brent Burns cashed in a high shot past rookie goalie Frederik Andersen's left side just one minute, 17 seconds into the game.
The Ducks (28-8-5) didn't take a shot on Sharks goalie Antti Niemi in the first five minutes and when they had the benefit of a power play, Ryan Getzlaf's one-timer from 20 feet was grabbed in little traffic in front of the goalie.
Logan Couture then gave the Sharks (25-8-6) a 2-0 lead 10:07 into the first by beating Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin and flipping a backhand past Andersen, who had won nine of his first 10 games.
"We knew what they were going to do," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We didn't meet their push."
"That was not OK," Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy said on Prime Ticket of the team's first-period performance. "We didn't come out with energy, they outplayed us.
"This is a team we're going to need to go through to win the Stanley Cup and we did not have the effort out there."
San Jose's lead became 3-0 when recently recalled forward Bracken Kearns, 32, scored his first career goal nearly midway through the second.
With the Ducks on an extended shift, Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins led a two-on-one by trying a wraparound that glanced in front of the goal right to a rushing Kearns.
Even when they got close to Niemi and had an open shot at the goalie in the second, Kyle Palmieri's stick broke and Saku Koivu and Jakob Silfverberg were denied down low by a mass of Sharks dedicated to protect the goalie.
With 8:28 left in the game, Ducks forward Patrick Maroon took a Corey Perry pass from the back of the net and beat Niemi high to his left.
"We were flat-footed the first five minutes," Maroon told Prime Ticket. "I don't think we were getting bounces like in the winning streak, but we have Tuesday to bounce back."
In the third, Boudreau shuffled lines and even briefly put center Getzlaf as a defenseman to seek a better scoring chance.
Perry also let the Sharks know there's fight remaining by getting a third-period hit-to-the-head penalty by dropping Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart to the ice.
The matchup now shifts to Anaheim. At Honda Center, the Ducks are 14-0-2 overall.
Pugmire reported from Los Angeles.