Maybe Randy Carlyle really has changed and is being truthful when he says he has mellowed and become less caustic than he was in his hard-driving first term as coach of the Ducks.
Carlyle was calm and almost philosophical Thursday after the Ducks' season-opening 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, somehow finding positives in an 0-for-5 performance on the power play and in the team's overall effort. What went wrong, he said, could be cleaned up — principally the poor defensive-zone cover-age that led to three of the Stars' goals. All four were produced by pluggers, not super-stars, including the third-period goals by Antoine Roussel and Adam Cracknell that sealed Dallas' victory.
"How can you allow a team to score three from the top of the crease? That's blowing coverage and that's missed coverage and those are assignments we will definitely recover from it," he said in a conversational tone. "We'll make sure those things don't happen again."
The old Carlyle would have spit out his incriminating verdict and roasted the culprits who allowed the Stars to generate those prime scoring chances. The new Carlyle spoke in an even tone, justifiably criticizing the defensive coverage but praising the work of Andrew Cogliano — who scored both Ducks goals — and the 10 shots on goal by Ryan Getzlaf, who usually thinks to pass first, second and third. "I'm happy with our effort," Carlyle said. "I cannot complain with our effort."
How long will Carlyle's new Zen state last? Impossible to say. Maybe only as long as it takes to get a med- ical report on defenseman Simon Despres, who exited in the second period because of an upper-body in- jury. His status is day to day, a blow to a team that has launched a five-game sea- son-opening trip without restricted free-agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who is unsigned.
Forward Rickard Rakell, also an unsigned restricted free agent, is absent too, but the Ducks might feel Lindholm's absence very keenly and very soon on the power play. Carlyle deployed defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who's not known for his shot, on the second power-play unit for a total of 5 minutes 17 seconds, second-most on the team. That partly explains their being blanked five times with the man advantage.
The Ducks never led, though they had a 17-1 edge in shots in the first period. Defenseman Stephen Johns scored on Dallas' lone shot of the opening period, off a fine setup from the left circle from Patrick Eaves at 3:40. Cogliano brought the Ducks even with a shorthanded goal at 4:09, intercepting a pass by Jason Spezza and going in alone on Antti Niemi for a breakaway. Niemi made the first save but Cogliano converted the rebound.
"I think we minimized and did a good job against their better players, which is tough," Cogliano said "I think we had five chances early in the game that could have put us in a good spot. At the end of the day, we gave them a couple goals, easier goals in terms of being in front of the net, and we weren't getting those, so they were doing a better job than us in those areas."
Lauri Korpikosi gave Dallas a 2-1 lead at 2:43 of the second period off a nice pass from Devin Shore, but the Ducks pulled even at 1:01 of the third period, when Ryan Kesler slid a pass un- der a diving Johnny Oduya and to Cogliano for a quick shot from the slot. But a mere 22 seconds later Cracknell found an unchecked Roussel by the right post for the go-ahead goal, and the Ducks never recovered. The Stars pad-ded their lead with a bang-bang play from Radek Fak-sa in the corner to Cracknell in front, with Ducks goalie John Gibson helpless.
"They had good chances," Gibson said. "Some nights I make those saves and tonight I didn't seem to make them and their guy played well and played better than me, and I think that was kind of it."