By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – Randy Carlyle has had plenty of triumphs at Honda Center during his coaching career, and this one managed to victimize his former team.
Carlyle’s Toronto Maple Leafs jumped out to a three-goal lead and hardly looked back in handing the Ducks a 3-1 home defeat in front of 17,229, a third straight loss for Anaheim.
Carlyle spent parts of seven seasons behind the Ducks bench – leading them to a Stanley Cup in 2007 – but was let go and replaced by current Anaheim boss Bruce Boudreau in November of 2011. Tonight was his first trip back to Anaheim since taking over in Toronto that same season, and his Leafs controlled play throughout despite being outshot on the night, 44-23.
A three-game home set against a trio of the Eastern Conference’s best was not kind to Anaheim, which lost consecutive six-round shootouts to the Canadiens and Penguins prior to tonight’s tilt with Toronto, now third in the East. Anaheim (43-15-7), which entered the game out of the top position in the NHL for the first time in two months, wasn’t able to regain that spot held currently by St. Louis (94 points).
"We’re competing right through the end of this thing," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "When it comes to those points, at least they were given up to the East teams and we weren’t giving up four-point nights. We got two points out of the three games, and we can use that a little bit. We were in all of the games. We played some good hockey teams."
Carlyle was one of five former Ducks to play a part in this one tonight, as the Leafs lineup included Joffrey Lupul, Peter Holland, Troy Bodie and Jake Gardiner. One former Maple Leaf, current Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin, expressed the team's frustrations.
"A couple turnovers cost us some goals," Beauchemin said. "We had our fair chances, but we just couldn’t capitalize on them. I thought we played a decent game. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we had lots of chances offensively. We just have to make sure to bury those."
Toronto went up 2-0 with two goals in the closing stretch of the first period, the first from Tyler Bozak, who tipped in a Dion Phaneuf feed that came from the left wing circle.
Then with less than a minute left in the period, Phil Kessel charged on a breakaway with Hampus Lindholm in pursuit. Kessel’s wrister under pressure was initially saved by Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, who ended up knocking it into his own net with the butt of the stick.
Anaheim had some chances denied in the early part of the second, and Toronto made it 3-0 when Kessel made a nice feed on the doorstep to Paul Ranger, who punched it through.
The Ducks finally got on the board with 5:41 left in the middle session, as Patrick Maroon’s shot from the slot was knocked down and rolled to Corey Perry, who tucked it inside the left post. It was the payoff of a period in which the Ducks had the last 11 shots between the two teams and the last seven scoring chances.
But that was all Toronto netminder Jonathan Bernier would allow tonight, as he finished with 43 saves. "When a goalie is sharp and you don’t create traffic in front of the net where he can’t see the pucks coming, you’re not going to score," said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. "He was seeing everything. He was stopping everything. You can only talk about so much, but if you want to score goals in this league, you have to go to the front of net and pay the price.
Meanwhile, a Ducks power play the continues to struggle went 0 for 4 tonight.
"The last three games I thought we’ve done a great job. We’ve worked hard, gotten pucks back after shots, we’ve shot pucks," Getzlaf said. "They’re just not going in. I’m not accepting that. Those are the things we have to focus on as a group. When the power play works, it’s because everybody is working and everybody is shooting. I thought our guys have done that the last three games. We need to support each other through those things."
The Ducks, who went 2-1-2 on their five-game homestand out of the Olympic break, next play Wednesday at Calgary in the first of three straight road contests.