At times, the Ducks looked imposing, a smooth-passing, grinding, cerebral team that should be a handful for any club they face in the playoffs.
On other occasions Friday they looked lethargic, with sloppy turnovers and skating miscues that were precursors to opposing goals.
If anything, the Ducks’ final home game of the regular season was a microcosm of their entire campaign, a Jekyll and Hyde squad that’s difficult to truly evaluate.
The rout appeared to be on after the Ducks jumped out to a three-goal lead in the second period, but they instead settled for a 5-3 victory where they sputtered for shifts at a time, their playoff hopes realized one game before.
Still, the Ducks had plenty to play for in the regular season’s penultimate game as they continue to jockey for postseason positioning, with home ice a possibility for the quarterfinals.
“When you see our hockey club clogging up the neutral ice,” coach Randy Carlyle said, “when you see our hockey club grinding teams down and having extended offensive-zone time, being a physical hockey club, a hard team to play against, we’re being effective.
“When we turn the puck over and we play loose and we don’t get inside on people, then we’re not very good.”
The Ducks leapfrogged the Kings into third place in the Pacific Division. A win in Saturday’s finale against the Coyotes coupled with a San Jose loss would pole-vault the Ducks into the division’s second seed along with a home game to kick-start the postseason.
A Kings victory paired with a Ducks loss would send Anaheim to Vegas in the first round.
As it stands now, the Ducks would travel to San Jose for Game 1 of the quarterfinals.
The way the Ducks have played at Honda Center, grabbing home advantage would be a boon to their fortunes.
They’ve lost just once in regulation on home ice in the past 16 games, and they’re riding a four-game winning streak overall.
Jakob Silfverberg pushed the Ducks to a fast start with a deflection goal 2:28 into the contest. About four minutes later, Rickard Rakell registered a power-play goal to match his goal total from last season with 33 (a team high).
After Josh Manson netted a power-goal marker 4:36 into the second period, the Ducks seemed to be in second gear, their legs churning against a team that was eliminated from playoff contention four days ago.
Slowly but surely, the lead evaporated as the Ducks allowed Stars skaters to freely drive to the net. And suddenly, the Stars cut the deficit to one with more than 17 minutes left in the game.
Andrew Cogliano’s breakaway goal with almost five minutes remaining ensured the Ducks would notch another victory, even if it was another uneven performance from a playoff-bound squad with precious little time to find a consistent, complete 60-minute effort that encompasses all the best qualities Carlyle outlined.
“The whole team is building that confidence,” said Silfverberg, who produced a three-point night. “We’re playing the right way That’s the biggest key. We’re not cheating. We’re ready [for the playoffs]. We just need to make sure we have a strong finish tomorrow and see who we get. Prepare from there.”