Not this. Not now.
With the playoffs hanging in the balance, the Ducks looked flat Monday night, the bounce in their step missing for most of the 60 minutes they skated against the St. Louis Blues.
The Ducks played loose with the puck in their own zone, and they were sitting back there most of the game.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Co. skated circles around the Ducks, and despite Anaheim’s third-period rally to make it a close game on Derek Grant’s goal, the Blues closed with a 4-2 victory before 16,312 at Honda Center.
“They played a little bit harder than we did,” said Corey Perry, whose 15th goal cut it to 2-1 in the second period. “We just weren’t sharp early, and that’s too bad.
“You can’t let it [snowball into the second period], but it does and you gotta come in, you gotta regroup. You look at the goals, we gave them a couple of them.”
It’s a third straight setback for the Ducks, who were flying high heading into last week’s two-game trip, the playoff prospects bright.
A return home didn’t offer any respite, and they no longer control their fate. The Colorado Avalanche, with two games in hand, are tied with the Ducks for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
The San Jose Sharks and Kings, with wins Monday, jumped ahead of the Ducks in the Pacific Division.
Anaheim has another three games left on the homestand to right the ship.
“It’s a tough loss,” Kevin Bieksa said, “but we’ll bounce back.”
The veteran defenseman lamented the number of turnovers the Ducks committed (17 to nine for the Blues) against a hard-charging squad that pressed and pressed and pressed.
The Blues were feistier from the opening faceoff, their legs churning on every forecheck, the desperation evident. They needed this game as much as the Ducks, and they’re the club that showed up.
St. Louis set up shop in the Ducks’ zone and cycled. The defensemen encountered trouble when they attempted to push the puck to the forwards to exit the zone, and instead met with more pressure.
When they did make it to the neutral zone, the Ducks were confronted by trapping Blues skaters.
Down 2-0 in the second period, the Ducks finally responded off a beautiful Ryan Getzlaf cross-ice feed to Perry, who was sitting backdoor for the effortless score.
The momentum was short-lived, though. The Blues continued to outhustle and outwork the Ducks all over the ice in a showing coach Randy Carlyle could hardly fathom.
“These are the dog days of the season,” Carlyle said. “You’re left to scratch your head on some of the performances that you get from your hockey club.”