The standing-room only crowd at Honda Center roared “Knight” in unison when “The Star-Spangled Banner’s” sixth verse was belted out Friday.
This was far from a home advantage for the Ducks. Their new Pacific Division rivals 220 miles to the northeast didn’t come alone.
The Vegas Golden Knights, in their second year of existence, invaded Anaheim with an army of vociferous supporters that cheered on their fifth straight win.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are now trudging through a seven-game skid that shows no signs of slowing down after a 3-2 loss to the defending Western Conference champions.
“Trying to find my game. Lead by example. That’s all you can do at this point,” the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf said. “I just haven’t found any rhythm and obviously I’m not playing up to the point that I want to play to to help push this group. I gotta find that.”
It’s admirable for Getzlaf to place much of the blame on himself. It’s what great leaders do. However, the playmaking center is far from the problem, even if he’s scoreless in his last six games.
The Ducks’ defensemen were caught out of position numerous times. Coach Randy Carlyle observed that Josh Manson attacked the would-be shooter, Paul Stastny, on the two on one rather than the backdoor man, Max Pacioretty, whom he was responsible for. Goalie John Gibson attempted to fend off Stastny, too, who found Pacioretty for the goal.
The goal, 10:46 into the second period, was the winner for the Golden Knights. It came 31 seconds after Knights forward Tomas Nosek tied the score with a diving poke in the crease that pushed the puck past Gibson.
“The turnovers were critical,” Carlyle said. “Tonight, special teams, we score a power-play goal and have another couple opportunities in the game to get a goal on the power play.
“We missed some open nets and chances. [Jakob] Silfverberg for one and [Ondrej] Kase for one, where they just got their stick on it. We had our fair share of chances, but our finishes need to improve. Especially in these tight games, difference-makers have to make the difference for us.”
Daniel Sprong’s second-period power-play goal tied the score at 1 (Carter Rowney added another 18 seconds later), and special teams did its job on the penalty kill, too. The Ducks were forced to kill off 3:29 of five-on-three time midway through the third. Adam Henrique was docked for a face-off violation. On the ensuing puck drop, Ryan Kesler joined him in the box after he was hit with a double-minor for high-sticking.
Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm hoped the timely kill would be a momentum-changer, if not the spark that ended this drawn-out losing streak. Instead, the Ducks fell again and are left searching for answers.