Advertisement

Even at Home, Ducks Look Out of Place : Hockey: Some blame weariness from travel for sluggish loss to Kings. Others point to a failure to pounce on loose pucks.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Steve Rucchin steamed toward the net with the puck, then seemed to be skating uphill and a potential scoring chance went south.

Patrik Carnback had an open net, but couldn’t have missed by more if he tried.

Oleg Tverdovsky nailed the right post.

Pucks dribbled off sticks and missed intended targets. Rebounds bounced free but were left to be collected by the opposition.

Advertisement

The Mighty Ducks’ 4-2 loss to the Kings Monday at The Pond was one to file away and forget.

The Ducks could point to cross-continental travel as one reason for failing to keep pace with their Southland rivals. And a few, including Coach Ron Wilson did. Others refused to lean on lengthy flights as an excuse for a disappointing performance.

Left wing Garry Valk had another idea.

“We just didn’t pay the price in front of their net,” he said. “Especially with a goalie that gives up rebounds. That’s where they scored their goals tonight. That fourth goal. That killed us.”

Advertisement

Indeed, Rick Tocchet’s backhander past goaltender Guy Hebert nailed down the King victory. It came on perhaps the Kings’ fourth whack at the puck from point-blank range.

Tocchet is renowned for his ability to camp in front of the net, take whatever abuse the defensemen dish out and yet still deliver.

At present, the Ducks have no one to fill that role.

That’s not to say they can’t put away rebounds. It’s simply that they didn’t muster much of an effort to pounce on the loose pucks and fire them at King goalie Jamie Storr.

Advertisement

“We’ve had a lot of chances [on rebounds] the last few games and the difference was they were going in,” Valk said.

That proved to be an important difference Monday.

“I felt like we put forth a good effort physically, but there were just a couple of mental lapses,” Valk said. “There were a lot of rebounds that just went right by us tonight.

“Wednesday [against Pacific Division-leading Colorado] there will be no excuses.”

Advertisement

Maybe if the Ducks hadn’t won two of three games on their trip to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa last week and weren’t in the middle of the pack in the division, they might have felt worse about losing to the Kings.

But it’s November after all.

“Every loss is tough to take,” Peter Douris said. “At this point, we’re not going to pat ourselves on the back [for every victory]. At the same time, this is a team we’ve got to beat.

“Emotionally, we were coming off a big win in Montreal [Wednesday] and another one in Ottawa [Saturday]. There is a tendency maybe to let up at home and think it’s going to be easy and it never is.”

Advertisement

Certainly not with Wayne Gretzky cruising the ice. The Ducks’ biggest lapses came when they forgot to monitor Gretzky more closely.

He danced past frozen Ducks, feeding Tony Granato for the Kings’ first goal. He unleashed a wide-open slap shot from the right circle for a 2-1 King lead. Later, he was one of those batting at the puck, leading to Tocchet’s game-clincher with 4:35 left.

“It’s one game,” said Shaun Van Allen, who assisted on the Ducks’ first goal. “It’s not the end of the world.”


Advertisement
Advertisement