By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – Ilya Bryzgalov was steady in the first start of his return to the Ducks, but a couple mistakes by the guys in front of him cost Anaheim tonight against the visiting Rangers.
Two glaring turnovers led directly to New York goals in the third as the Ducks dropped a 4-1 decision to the Blueshirts in front of a sellout crowd of 17,174 at Honda Center.
Bryzgalov saved 26 of 29 shots against a Rangers team that came into Anaheim red hot, having won 9 of their last 10 games. And they showed no sign of letting up tonight while allowing Anaheim just a single Francois Beauchemin third period goal.
The Ducks came in almost as hot, having won four of the last five (and 12 of their last 16), but they were overmatched tonight. The scoring chances they did generate were mostly gobbled up by New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist (24 saves).
Neither team found the net until the Rangers cashed in 9:10 into the second period. Skating with an extra attacker following a Ducks delayed penalty, New York’s Derick Brassard hammered a slap shot from the top of the left circle that sailed through traffic and got through Bryzgalov.
"I battled hard," Bryzgalov said. "Our guys played well tonight. Sometimes the puck doesn't bounce your way. It's a game, you know?"
Beauchemin said of Bryzgalov, "He played well tonight. He made some big saves and kept us in it. We need to give him more than one goal."
The Rangers made it a two-goal lead 2 1/2 minutes into the third when Sami Vatanen gave the puck away from near his own goal into the slot. Kevin Klein pounced on it and fired a wrister that Rick Nash tipped before it hit Bryzgalov, who knocked it into the net with his right arm.
"That was a bad play for me," Vatanen said. "I should never put the puck in the middle like that. It’s unlucky they scored there, and it ended up being the game-winning goal."
The Ducks capitalized on the second of two straight Rangers power plays to get back in the game, the second a delay of game penalty on Derek Stepan at the halfway point of the period. Not long after, Beauchemin rifled a shot from the blue line that zipped over Lundqvist’s shoulder. It was Beauchemin’s third goal in six games since returning from a finger injury.
But Beauchemin’s turnover cost the Ducks with 5:33 left in the game, as he sent the puck from behind the net onto the stick of Mats Zuccarello, who slapped it home from the right circle to make it 3-1 Rangers.
"It’s bad luck," Bryzgalov said. "We were down by a goal and we tried to get it back, but it all went by so quickly. Their forwards put some good pressure on us, which forced turnovers."
New York put the game away with 2:14 left when Dominic Moore threw the puck into an empty Anaheim net from the Ducks blue line.
"We had some bad turnovers, no doubt," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "We gave them two goals and they scored the empty netter. They’re a really good team that deserved to win. They played better than us. When we had chances, we didn’t bury them."
The NHL-leading Ducks (29-10-6) continue their eight-game homestand on Sunday vs. Winnipeg, which will be Teemu Tribute Night as the Ducks honor the franchise legend before the game. Fans attending that game are urged to be in their seats by 4:15 p.m. for the ceremony.