Ducks pay tribute to Paul Kariya but it’s no banner night for players on the ice in 4-2 loss to Sabres

Ducks' Ryan Miller (30) pushes Buffalo Sabres' Sam Reinhart (23) from the crease during the second period at Honda Center on Sunday.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Paul Kariya stood on a black mat bearing his signature and gazed as a banner emblazoned with his last name and number was finally, at long last, raised to the rafters.

That No. 9 now hangs to the left of Teemu Selanne’s No. 8, the pair of players who were elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame last year in Toronto now together for eternity in Anaheim, too.

Former Ducks player Paul Kariya, left, stands with his girlfriend Valerie Dawson and watches as his jersey is retired prior to the game against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

There was still a game to be played, of course, following a ceremony the Ducks’ first-ever draft pick called “the most memorable night of my life.” It was anything but for the Ducks players still skating on the ice.

After John Gibson was pelted with 44 shots on Saturday in Las Vegas, he wondered aloud if the team is “too satisfied with just being average.”

Maybe so, because one night later, Ryan Miller slammed his stick in frustration after the Buffalo Sabres scored a third consecutive goal to grab the lead for good during Sunday’s sold-out game at Honda Center.

The backup goalie faced 45 shots in all, and the Ducks lost 4-2 after they lost a 2-0 lead in the second period.

The disparity in shots has been a theme for the Ducks all season, win or lose. They generated just 18 against the Golden Knights. Tonight, it was 28. The Dallas Stars delivered 50 on net last week.

Captain Ryan Getzlaf acknowledged the team won some games it “may not have deserved at certain times” on its way to first place in the Pacific Division, success that perhaps allowed the club to ignore the mounting the issue.

Eight games into the season, the Ducks have outshot the opposition just once, and now that they’ve lost two in a row, the problem with their unsteady play is bubbling to the surface.

“We gotta get back to doing things properly; doing things the way we wanna do them on a shift-by-shift basis, not just kind of when we feel like it,” said Getzlaf, who centered a new-look top unit that included Ben Street and Pontus Aberg, who have a combined eight NHL goals in 115 career games.

“Some (play) on the offensive side, my play personally tonight, was embarrassing -- the fact I can’t make a pass to one of my linemates. … We have young players in the lineup and some of our veteran players aren’t leading the way properly.”

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle sought more balance with forward combinations that featured skill players on each line, a departure from his propensity to load his fourth unit with grinders.

Rookie Sam Steel, centering the fourth line between 2018 first-round pick Isac Lundestrom and all-star Rickard Rakell, tipped-in his first NHL goal to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead.

Then it was Kiefer Sherwood, also suiting up for just his ninth NHL contest, who padded the lead with a glove-side wrister off the rush from the top of the face-off circle. That was the last success the Ducks enjoyed on this night of tribute.

Less than two-and-a-half minutes later, Kyle Okposo scored on the power play. Almost 90 seconds later, the game was tied when Jason Pominville found a streaking Jeff Skinner alone in front.

Rasmus Ristolainen’s point blast on another power play made it 3-2 and the Ducks couldn’t muster the proper looks to take it back despite a final-minute onslaught with Miller on the bench.

“The telltale sign for me is I’ve had to mix lines up in the last three games in a row because I wasn’t happy with what was going on out there,” Carlyle said. “That’s a telltale sign for a coach that something’s not working.”

It looks like more lineup tinkering is coming when the Ducks regroup before a two-game road swing.