By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – A Ducks team that was once dominant at home has looked quite vulnerable there as of late.
Anaheim’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of the visiting Washington Capitals was the fourth straight defeat at Honda Center, all coming to Eastern Conference foes. It's a troubling development for a team that was at one time a record-setting 20-0-2 on its home turf this season.
This one, in front of a sellout crowd of 17,174, sullied the good vibes the Ducks had built with satisfying wins in Colorado and LA over the weekend. Tonight, however, they couldn’t generate enough offense despite 45 shots on goalie Jaroslav Halak, and they came up empty on six power play opportunities.
"We shot today. We just didn’t pay the price in front of the net until the end," said Ducks coach (and former Caps head man) Bruce Boudreau. "We had a lot of looks, and we were shooting the puck, but we weren’t getting to any loose pucks."
After Washington went up a goal relatively early in the third period, Anaheim’s desperate attempts to tie it were rebuffed. The most notable instance came when Mathieu Perreault was barely denied by Halak on a wraparound attempt with 15 seconds left and the Anaheim net empty. That was as close as the Ducks would come to tie the score in the final stretch, as Anaheim missed an opportunity to build a two-point lead over the Sharks for the Pacific Division lead.
"We had a lot of good looks," Perreault said, also referencing a two-man advantage early in the second in which the Ducks did not score. "On that 5-on-3, we had some good looks, but you have to find a way to get a goal.
"We worked hard. We had chances. Their goalie played well and we have to give him some credit. We just weren’t able to find a way to get them behind him."
Washington’s Joel Ward opened the scoring tonight a little more than two minutes into the game, gathering in a rebound and putting it in for his 21st of the season.
Washington went back on top with 9.2 seconds left in the period as Jonas Hiller kicked away a Marcus Johansson shot and Troy Brouwer punched in the rebound.
The Ducks tied it 1:32 into the third period just after a Washington penalty expired, as former Capital Perreault snuck in a shot from the slot through a Patrick Maroon screen.
But the Caps quickly went back in front – for good, as it turned out – with their second power play goal, as Alex Ovechkin one-timed a shot from the bottom of the left wing circle.
"This was a big one for Bruce," said Lovejoy. "We all knew it. I think we came out with a lot of passion. When we’re skating and playing tough hockey, we get our forecheck going. We had that going tonight. We just weren’t able to put more than two in the net."
Gritty defenseman Stephane Robidas, acquired by Anaheim from Dallas two weeks ago, made his Ducks debut after not having played since suffering a fractured leg in November. "It wasn’t my best, but the first one is out of the way," Robidas said. "I can move on. My leg is good. I got bumped a few times, and I tried to bump them a few times. Everything is good."
Dustin Penner, traded by the Ducks to these Capitals on the same day Robidas was acquired, had no shots tonight in less than nine minutes of ice time.
The Ducks were without the services of defenseman Cam Fowler for a second straight game, as he sat out with a lower-body injury suffered Friday night in Colorado.