Ducks battle Sharks and their reputation in 3-2 loss
Brian Burke built the Ducks to be tough and they were, winning the Stanley Cup because of their brawn and skill and despite their tendency to ignore the bounds of good sense and the NHL rule book.
That label has stuck, though Burke is gone and their lineup has changed considerably. The Ducks have no pretensions of being angels, but they’re tired of being typecast as villains.
Bodies flew and tempers flared in the final seconds of their 3-2 loss to San Jose on Sunday at the Honda Center, their anger compounded by the end of their four-game winning streak and tenuous status of their playoff quest.
They are seventh in the West with two games left, against Dallas on Friday and at Phoenix on Saturday. Before they play again they might be trailing Nashville, which is two points behind with a game at hand and will play Chicago on Tuesday, at Detroit on Thursday and at Minnesota on Friday.
St. Louis, two points behind the Ducks with a game in hand, plays at Phoenix on Tuesday, against Columbus on Friday and at Colorado on Sunday.
The saving grace for the Ducks is they have two more wins than Nashville and three more than St. Louis, wins being the first tiebreaker if teams are even in points. But the Ducks still have an image problem working against them, big time.
“To some degree, I think, the reputation that we’ve had historically is hurting us in these situations,” Coach Randy Carlyle said.
Even Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick said there were “a couple of plays” referees Dan O’Rourke and Chris Lee could have called penalties on during that late scramble.
“And they didn’t and I think the frustration overflowed when the buzzer went,” said Roenick, one of the combatants.
Ryan Getzlaf, dumped in the slot by Roenick and checked into the crossbar by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, went after Vlasic and got a misconduct and two minor penalties. Teemu Selanne and Andrew Ebbett also got misconducts.
For the Sharks, whose 52nd victory set a franchise record, Jonathan Cheechoo and Vlasic got misconducts.
“There were many chances at the end there to put the puck away, coming down the slot, and guys kicking legs out, guys getting jumped from behind,” Getzlaf said. “They seemed to put their whistles away, I guess, at the end of the game.”
The Ducks shouldn’t have put themselves in position to lose because of non-calls. Playing their fourth game in four cities in six nights, they lost their legs in the second period and the lead in the third.
They killed a one-minute, five-on-three San Jose power play but gave up the decisive goal at 13:19 while down one man, when Cheechoo deflected a shot by Christian Ehrhoff past goaltender Jonas Hiller.
But it’s difficult to fathom that in splitting a home-and-home series, the Ducks got three power plays and San Jose got 10. Or that the Ducks had one power play Thursday at Vancouver to the Canucks’ four. And so on.
“We’re not saying we haven’t committed fouls,” Carlyle said. “When we’ve played in the offensive zone as much as we have and watch what other teams do to defend our players and if we do the same thing it doesn’t seem that there’s an equal playing field at times.
“But that’s perception . . . and you have to take that into consideration.”
Returning home after a 3-0 trip to Edmonton, Vancouver and San Jose, the Ducks were met by a lively standing-room-only crowd and an air of anticipation. They fed that by taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1.
Petteri Nokelainen scored his first career short-handed goal at 5:38 of the first period, with Ebbett in the penalty box. Scott Niedermayer moved the puck up the boards to Nokelainen, who dodged Vlasic at the blue line. Nokelainen stayed on his forehand to slip the puck under Brian Boucher.
The Sharks came out strong in the second period and pulled even at 2:43. Cheechoo took the puck from Ducks defenseman Brendan Mikkelson in the corner and passed to Joe Thornton, who found Roenick for a 30-foot shot that became his first goal since Dec. 6.
The Ducks regained the lead after Sharks enforcer Jody Shelley was sent off for a retaliatory slash on George Parros, who had shoved him into the Sharks’ bench. Corey Perry scored at 11:31 from about 18 feet out, after Selanne had swatted at it.
A charging penalty against Rob Niedermayer gave the Sharks an advantage they used to tie the game, at 15:16. Joe Pavelski, set up by Dan Boyle, turned before he slid a shot through Hiller’s leg pads. Cheechoo applied the final touch, and the Ducks’ final scramble produced only frustration.
Asked whether they will lose their momentum during their respite, Getzlaf forced a smile.
“We lost tonight. What momentum?” he said. “The momentum’s got to be up to us. We’ve got to use the break properly and get ready for the weekend. We know the task that’s at hand, and it’s been the same for the last month.”
The task of shedding their old reputation will take much, much longer.