Monday, 11.14.2011 / 11:26 AM
It can be a finicky game, this hockey. And the Ducks proved that during an up-and-down weekend.
Friday night Anaheim played two good periods against the Canucks and came away with a 4-3 win. Last night they played two good ones against the Wild, and lost 3-2. But it was the timing of those two good periods, not just the end result, that made those two games seem worlds apart.
Friday night, following a scoreless first, the Ducks raced out to a 4-0 lead (thanks in part to a game-changing elbowing major by Aaron Rome on Devante Smith-Pelly) and barely hung on for dear life through a three-goal third period by the Canucks.
Last night, a rough first period in which the Wild scored three unanswered left the Ducks in a hole they could never recover from, and Cam Fowler goals in the second and third periods were not quite enough. Fowler scored the second one (his second of the year) with less than a minute left in the third and the Anaheim net empty, but the Ducks couldn't repeat the feat over the last 52 1/2 seconds. (Meanwhile, the clang of the left goalpost is still ringing in our ears as two Teemu Selanne efforts to get the Ducks closer in the second chipped the red paint but didn't go in.)
After another tough loss, it was Fowler -- the 19-year-old with the poise of a man twice his age -- who encapsulated the sentiment surrounding this team and its tendency to get off to bad starts. "It’s up to us in here to figure out what is going on with the start of our games," a downtrodden Fowler said. "Especially with this big home stretch here, we should be excited to play and ready to go in the first period. It just seems like one bad bounce after the other. We just put ourselves so far behind. The next thing you know, the next two periods we have to claw out of it.
"On paper, you look at this team and we should be doing a lot better than we are. Paper only says so much. It’s up to us right now to rally around each other."
While the Ducks erupted for a four-goal second period Friday night against the conference champs, their season-long lack of goal-scoring was addressed this morning when they claimed veteran Niklas Hagman off re-entry waivers. The 31-year-old Hagman is a three-time 20-goal scorer who was off to a slow start in Calgary, with just a goal and three assists so far this year. But he's a proven scorer who had 27 goals with Dallas four seasons ago and 25 with Toronto and Calgary in 2009-10. Last year he had 11 goals in 71 games with the Flames.
Hagman was originally placed on waivers last Thursday, went unclaimed and ended up in Abbotsford of the AHL. When he was placed on re-entry waivers, the Ducks nabbed him, meaning they will take on a prorated half his salary and the Flames will pick up the other half.
Hagman is already familiar with a few Ducks, having played on a couple of Finnish Olympic teams with Selanne and Saku Koivu and on Swiss team HC Davos with Jonas Hiller during the lockout.
We'll have more on Hagman later today, including how soon he can join the team. To make room for him, the Ducks reassigned Peter Holland, who had his first NHL goal Friday night vs. Vancouver, eliciting one of the cooler quotes of the season. "I don’t think I could feel my legs when it went in the net," Holland said. "It was pretty cool. I kind of decided that I want to do that again. It was pretty special and something I will never forget. To score it on Luongo, one of the best goalies in the league, that adds to it as well."
Meanwhile, it was another Ducks youngster, Fowler, who vocalized how the Ducks need to approach their next two games -- back-to-back Freeway Face-Off battles with the Kings on Wednesday at Staples Center and Friday back home.
"We have to put some wins together now, and it starts on Wednesday," Fowler said. "We should be going into those two games like Stanley Cup Game 7. It’s a big rivalry. Playing those guys back-to-back in a home-and-home, it could get us going in the right way in a position direction or it could set us back again. We have to be ready."