The familiar No. 15 home sweater with the C stitched on the breast was back on the ice, but it didn’t translate to more success. Far from it.
On a day where many Anaheim residents were forced to evacuate their homes because of wild fires, the Ducks still had a game to play. But they didn’t perform well in Ryan Getzlaf’s return from a lower-body injury.
They looked good early, but it was short-lived and the energy quickly dissipated against a younger, faster Calgary Flames team that finally earned a win in Anaheim.
The 2-0 victory was Calgary’s first regular-season triumph at Honda Center since 2004, and snapped a 25-game losing streak at the arena, an NHL record for consecutive home wins over an opponent (the Flames did top the Ducks here in a 2006 playoff contest).
“There was some rust, obviously, some passes I’d like back,” said Getzlaf, who was on the ice for 22:13 in his season debut. “I don’t know if we did a good enough job getting in there for the second and third opportunities. We directed a lot of pucks at the net but I don’t think we had any rebound opportunities until the third period.”
Once again, it was John Gibson who kept the injury-depleted Ducks in the game with timely saves. Like the sprawling stop he made on a streaking Sean Monahan with his left arm late in the second. But moments later, it was Monahan again, who buried it on the power play.
The Ducks finally came alive on an early third-period power play, but it didn’t amount to anything against Mike Smith, who was there to match Gibson’s strong play (Gibson stonewalled Matt Stajan on a short-handed breakaway attempt).
The boos rained down.
Sure, the Ducks are hurting, but to be so thoroughly outhustled at home? Well, the boos only rang louder when a two-man rush advanced on Gibson with no defenseman between them (though a goal didn’t materialize after the Flames misplayed it).
Even a two-minute six-on-four power play (Ducks coach Randy Carlyle pulled Gibson for the extra man with three minutes left) couldn’t get the Ducks on the board for the first time in 11 power-play tries this season.
To be fair, the Ducks were great on their last two chances, even if no pucks crossed the line. Much of that was due to the marvelous play of Smith, who made 43 saves for the shutout.
It’s been the same story for three games. The Ducks have held just one lead this season, for 3:30 after a furious rally lifted them to a 5-4 win in the opener. Slow starts continue to plague them.
“We created a lot more chances in the second half of the game vs. the first half of the game again and that’s been our Achilles heel in these last three games,” said Carlyle.
“We haven’t had a start that we can be proud of.”
They were lucky to grab a point against Philadelphia. And now, they have their first regulation loss of the season, and many more questions for Carlyle to answer as the team wraps up a four-game homestand Wednesday against the New York Islanders.