The Ducks continue to turn the puck over and withstand an avalanche of shots, and for the first time in four games it cost them.
It was bound to happen. All the momentum that the Ducks had built in riding a three-game winning streak into Wednesday night’s game at Honda Center? Gone.
It was the Ducks’ longest string of wins this season, but 49 shots from the Vegas Golden Knights (to only 19 for Anaheim) lifted the expansion team in the first meeting between the teams.
The upstart Golden Knights used an aggressive forecheck and smooth skating to show that they’re not just a flash in the pan, their 4-2 victory kicking off the Ducks’ newest rivalry in the Pacific Divison.
James Neal’s backhanded rebound goal with less than nine minutes remaining broke a 2-2 tie and ensured that the Golden Knights, who overcame a 2-0 deficit, would have a leg up head to head over the Ducks when the history books are written.
Chris Wagner hit a post on a power-play attempt that would have tied the score minutes later, and there were at least three other Grade-A chances on that desperate man advantage; anything to keep the winning streak alive.
"The score was 4-2 and it could have been 10-2. That’s how good he played," coach Randy Carlyle said of goaltender John Gibson. "That's how good (Gibson) played. What we were doing out there was not anywhere near what we're capable of doing as a hockey club. so we have a lot of work ahead of us.
"We're going to review it, we'll try to get a plan together and get ourselves ready for the next one. Can't change what happened."
The Golden Knights wouldn’t be denied. The 49 shots were a franchise record for the Golden Knights only 20 games into their existence and the victory vaulted them over the Kings atop the division.
But for the Ducks, that’s simply the norm — they’ve given up more shots than any other NHL team.
John Gibson faced 52 on Sunday and, one day later, Reto Berra stood up to 42.
William Karlsson buried a Reilly Smith pass from the corner to finish the Ducks — and all the great momentum they generated coming into the game — with two minutes left.
It was a surprise that the Ducks led after two periods. They were sloppy with the puck and had no trouble entering the zone.
The scoring chances at even strength were few and far between.
Sure, there was Josh Manson’s nifty goal between Maxime Lagace’s legs. And Derek Grant’s deflection on the suddenly hot power play.
But otherwise, the Golden Knights were in control, and it was a matter of when they would find the right bounces.
Defenseman Josh Manson was unsure about how the Ducks could limit their opponents’ shots.
“I don't know. We have to look at the tape,” he said. “It's been happening here a few times as of late. We've been relying too much on our goaltending. We're going to have to fix it and look at it and see what's going on and start playing some better defense because this isn't good enough."
They earned three in the final period, and when Jonathan Marchessault scored on a power-play wrist shot, the Ducks wouldn’t recover.
The Ducks host the Winnipeg Jets in a matinee on Friday, but then they hit the road, starting Saturday against the Kings at Staples Center and continuing with five more games away from home.
They won’t return to Anaheim until the second week of December.
That leaves little time to fix the myriad issues plaguing an injury-riddled team, warts covered by superb goaltending in three consecutive victories.