Ducks Are at Their Worst in 5-2 Loss to Blue Jackets


The Mighty Ducks embarrassed themselves Sunday, turning in a shabby performance that cemented their status as one of the NHL’s worst teams.

Given a chance to escape last place in the Western Conference with a victory, the Ducks collapsed in a heap of mistakes and generally uninspired play.

The expansion Columbus Blue Jackets suffered no such breakdowns, clearly showing they were superior to the Ducks in a comprehensive 5-2 victory before an alleged crowd of 12,308 at the Arrowhead Pond.


Columbus, which ended a seven-game winless streak, moved two points ahead of the last-place Ducks with the victory.

The Ducks lead only the Atlanta Thrashers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning--the dregs of the Eastern Conference--in the league’s overall standings.

“It’s deflating to everybody,” Duck captain Paul Kariya said. “Every time we seem to make some strides, the same mistakes crop up. It’s inexcusable in any profession.”

Certainly, the Ducks heads and hearts seemed to be elsewhere Sunday. The question was why?

“It’s mistakes,” Kariya said.

“No one plays a perfect game, but good teams don’t make mistakes that lead to such good scoring chances.”

For instance, Columbus winger Espen Knutsen slipped the puck through Duck defenseman Mike Crowley’s legs, freeing himself for a breakaway and a nifty goal only 17 seconds into the game. It was the fastest goal in the Blue Jackets’ short history, besting Robert Kron’s tally 19 seconds into a Feb. 17 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Knutsen, a former Duck, had two goals and an assist. Goaltender Ron Tugnutt, an original Duck, made 23 saves.


Defenseman Jamie Pushor, another former Duck, had an assist on Kevyn Adams’ empty-net goal in the game’s final minute.

All things considered, it was another good night to be an ex-Duck. Of course, it has been a good season to be anywhere but Anaheim, where the lack of passion for the game has been palpable from the start.

However, when it seemed the Ducks were at last reversing their fortunes--going 2-3-2-1 since the All-Star break, for instance--they unleashed a clunker of titanic proportions Sunday.

Crowley’s misplay of the puck in the neutral zone enabled Knutsen to gain possession, which led to the first Columbus goal.

The Ducks also failed to put a glove on a hard-charging Geoff Sanderson, who easily potted a rebound for the Blue Jackets’ second goal at 9:01 of the second period.

Mike Leclerc cut the lead in half with his 15th goal of the season with 5:32 left in the second.


Duck defenseman Pascal Trepanier failed to box out Columbus’ Steve Heinze, who was free to redirect a shot past Jean-Sebastien Giguere for a power-play goal and a 3-1 Blue Jacket lead 6:41 into the final period.

Kariya cut the lead to 3-2 with a power-play goal at 12:07.

But Knutsen picked off Trepanier’s poor clearing pass at the blue line, deked defenseman Pavel Trnka out of his socks, froze Giguere with a fake and slipped a backhander behind him for a 4-2 Columbus lead only 1:11 later.

Adams’ sealed the game with his empty-netter, giving Columbus five goals in a game for the first time since a 5-2 victory Jan. 3 against the Edmonton Oilers.

“We can’t afford to have these kinds of lapses,” Duck Coach Guy Charron said.

“We’ve tried to address these things. We’ve tried to get the players to buy into it. We’ve played pretty well when we have. Obviously, our defense has to stand up and be accountable.”

Given their lowly standing, and the fact that steady defenseman Niclas Havelid is sidelined for the rest of the season after injuring his anterior cruciate ligament Feb. 15, you might think the Ducks would play it safe and sane.

You would be wrong.

After all, the Ducks have given up 195 goals, tops in the Western Conference.

“I don’t know whether it’s mental or physical, but it’s happening far too frequently,” Kariya said when asked about the team’s defensive lapses.