The words of Ricky Bobby, scrawled on the dressing-room message board, sent the Ducks onto the ice: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
So the Ducks’ frustration had reached the point they were taking inspirational cues from a fictional character in “Talladega Nights.”
“Whatever works,” Teemu Selanne said, grinning.
For one night, it was magic.
The Ducks were told to collect “firsts” Monday at the Honda Center and returned with a big one in a 4-1 victory over the battered Colorado Avalanche.
“That was the first game this year where we played 60 minutes,” said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who stopped 29 of 30 shots. “No game is flawless, but that was as close as we’ve come this season.”
It certainly topped any of their past performances at home.
The Ducks got two goals from Teemu Selanne and one each from Chris Pronger and Chris Kunitz. That was more than enough offense to take care of an Avalanche team that was missing Joe Sakic.
This, though, was not intended to be a one-night stand, or so the Ducks hope.
“We have to get that feeling back that this is our barn and getting points here is going to be tough,” Selanne said. “We have to be homers.”
The Ducks know what that’s like, having had an 80-25-18 record at home the last three seasons.
But this season, they have been gracious hosts -- for opponents. The Ducks were 5-6-2 in the Honda Center heading into Monday’s game. That included losing four of their last five at home, one in a shootout.
“I don’t know what it has been,” Coach Randy Carlyle said. “Obviously, the coaches have to take some of the responsibility for it. Whatever we choose to do to motivate our players has not been working.”
Carlyle rattled off a coach-speak to-do list.
“You have to have a good start,” he said. “You have to get the first shot on goal. You have to draw the first penalty. You have to create the first scoring chance. All those things are important.”
The Ducks’ Nathan McIver might have mistaken Carlyle’s “firsts” for “fists,” as he dropped the gloves and went a round with Cody McLeod seven seconds into the game. Still, it was for effect.
“I just wanted to get some energy going early,” McIver said.
For the most part, the Ducks followed their coach’s just-do-it-first list. More important, they scored the first goal . . . and the second . . . and the third.
Selanne got the first of his two power-play goals, tipping in an opportunity created by Corey Perry, 9 minutes 41 seconds into the game. Kunitz buried one short-side two minutes later.
The Ducks limited the Avalanche to four shots in a second period spent mostly in the Colorado end.
“We talked about wanting to have a good start,” Selanne said. “We wanted to do the right things, and we wanted to do them first.”
Burke, Toronto talk
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had discussions with a representative of former Ducks general manager Brian Burke, though they are described as preliminary. No offer has been made and NHL sources said that talks are moving slowly forward. Burke remains a special consultant to the Ducks.