Mighty Duck Coach Ron Wilson said it himself: "The table was set for disaster."
His team had won only two of its first 10 games and was about to face a desperate Calgary team that had yet to win this season.
The situation was dire, Wilson was nervous, and Sunday morning his boss, General Manager Jack Ferreira, wanted to speak to him.
About extending his contract.
Wilson's relief started with that news and overflowed later in the day when the Ducks blitzed Calgary with a five-goal first period and went on to beat the Flames, 7-2, in front of 17,060 at The Pond of Anaheim.
Ferreira told Wilson after last season he would give him a new deal, but with the contract still undone and the team off to a 2-8 start, the timing seemed to have turned awkward, to say the least.
"I'm a human being," Wilson said. "No one's saying anything, and you start to worry. Then you don't get off to a good start, and you know there are a lot of easy outs in this game."
Instead of allowing speculation to ferment with Wilson dangling in the final year of a three-year deal, Ferreira broached the topic Sunday. Wilson said they haven't discussed numbers but Ferreira said one-year extensions for Wilson and assistants Al Sims and Tim Army are "going to get done this week."
Team president Tony Tavares said decisions on the coaching staff belong to Ferreira, who said, "I look at it as what they've done, the way the team has played the first two years, the way they work with the young guys. Ron and Al and Tim are exactly what we want. They're good teachers; they communicate well with the players."
The players were ready from the start Sunday. Shaun Van Allen scored 1:27 into the game when he slapped a shot that went through the legs of defenseman Trent Yawney and between the pads of goalie Trevor Kidd, and the Ducks were off. After 9 1/2 minutes, the lead was 3-0, and they chased Kidd. Rick Tabaracci fared little better, and the Ducks set a club record by scoring five goals in the period.
Paul Kariya scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season, and Van Allen and Peter Douris also scored two goals. Calgary is in the pits of despair, with bad goaltending and a troupe of players who didn't put up much resistance.
"We took advantage of a team that's struggling right now," Wilson said. "I was very nervous before the game, because they had eight shots at home the other night against Detroit. I know what that's like, to be in that position, desperate, with nothing to lose."
Wilson tried something new Sunday, putting Kariya at one of the points on the struggling power play. Kariya found the extra opportunities the coaches thought he would, and finished the game with nine shots on goal, a number of them on hard shots from the point.
Vancouver's Pavel Bure, Boston's Adam Oates and Colorado's Joe Sakic are a few other forwards who play the point, and Kariya is likely to be there more and more.
"He puts a little fear in the other team," said Wilson, whose only concern is that the Ducks don't give up too many shorthanded opportunities with Kariya instead of a second defenseman on the ice.
One victory can't turn around a season, but it can ease the tension.
"The three of us, we need a pat on the back every once in a while too," Wilson said. "If all you're going to be evaluated on is wins and losses, and the team's on a five-year plan. . . .
"You're worrying bad enough about wins and losses without worrying about your family. Look around, seven or eight coaches a year don't make it.
"I trust [Tavares] and I trust Jack with my life, I've said that before, but after a while you start to worry. You have a parachute, but jeez, you want to make sure it opens."
The Ducks have sent the tape of Thursday's game against Dallas to the NHL, seeking supplementary discipline against right wing Shane Churla for an unpenalized slash against Chad Kilger, who left the game with a badly bruised forearm and sat out the next game. However, Churla is already out of action for a month after his right ankle was broken later in the game when hit by a slap shot.