This was as thorough a meltdown as an NHL team can stage in 60 minutes, a complete failure offensively, defensively, in goal and — as has long been the Ducks’ downfall — in discipline. Why they bothered going on a late-season push to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs is baffling because they’ve followed that with a lack of scoring power, a staggering array of defensive mistakes and, on Monday, an epically bad performance against the San Jose Sharks that put the Ducks one loss from a long summer.
The Ducks apparently missed the memo that speed and youth now drive the NHL. The Sharks got that memo and built a swift and balanced team that breezed past the Ducks on Monday by scoring four times in the second period of an 8-1 victory at a rollicking SAP Center and taking a 3-0 series lead.
Ducks goaltender John Gibson was excused after yielding five goals on 24 shots in two periods, and though he wasn’t sharp he got little help from flailing forwards and outclassed defensemen who became pylons for the Sharks’ skating drills. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was excused at 11:12 of the final period after getting a 10-minute misconduct, not long after he had taken a double-minor that set up San Jose’s sixth goal.
“We just couldn’t stop the bleeding in the second,” said defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who plans to retire after this season and could be finished Wednesday night.
Barring an unfathomable turnaround, the Sharks will end this first-round series Wednesday and meet the winner of the series between the Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights. The Kings are in a similar 3-0 hole and have had similar scoring woes but they haven’t disintegrated like the Ducks, who foolishly gave the Sharks eight power plays Monday. The Ducks have scored only three goals, two on power plays.
Disappointing? Embarrassing? “All those words,” Beauchemin said. “Eight-one in the playoffs? Tough to digest for sure. But we’ll respond.”
They have no choice. But they have less than 48 hours to put it aside. “Do you?” defenseman Josh Manson asked, rhetorically. “You dwell on it tonight. We know what happened. It’s embarrassing. It’s not good enough. Now it’s do or die. If you dwell on a game like this it gets you nowhere.”
Which is where they appear to be heading, anyway.
Remarkably, the score was 1-1 after one period. San Jose had scored first, at 3:44, when Mikkel Boedker dodged Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm and passed to Logan Couture, who had sped away from Getzlaf and into the slot. Couture didn’t miss. But not long after the Ducks killed a penalty on Getzlaf for holding, they got a power play and cashed in. Getzlaf got the puck back to the blue line to Brandon Montour, who quickly found Rickard Rakell in the left circle. Rakell’s one-timer eluded Martin Jones at 13:40 for his first goal of the series.
After that came the deluge. The Sharks went ahead at 1:15 of the second period, aided by Montour’s fall in the neutral zone. Joonas Donskoi pounced on the loose puck and quickly set off on a two-on-one with Evander Kane, with Donskoi finishing off the play. Donskoi set up linemate Marcus Sorensen a few minutes later, with Sorensen faking Gibson and slipping a backhander past the goalie’s arm at 3:41.
It got worse for the Ducks at 13:43, when Eric Fehr pushed past Andrew Cogliano along the boards and skated into the slot for an easy goal. San Jose’s last four goals were scored during power plays, all on penalties born of the frustration the Ducks seem perpetually unable to handle. They gave the Sharks eight advantages, way too many.
Coach Randy Carlyle said the tumble that Montour took to give the Sharks a two-on-one was the turning point of the game. “It just seemed from that point forward we were playing as individuals and guys were trying to do the job by themselves, that’s what it appeared to me,” he said, adding that his defensemen too often were leading the rush offensively and then getting caught when play turned back the other way. “You try to calm them down, say, ‘Just stay with the program here.’ It was a one-goal hockey game and then it got away as soon as we gave up the two-on-one when Montour fell down. ...
“It’s hard to forget what we just did. Very undisciplined. Very disappointed in our reaction in the hockey game. Those are the things that we have to address.”
Getzlaf, asked how the Ducks can get back in the series, gave the obvious and only response possible. “One win. We’ve got to win a game,” he said. “Our focus has to be to win Game 4. That’s all we can do.”
If they can’t, a swift exit will be the only speedy part of their game and their season.
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen