By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – With one team’s postseason ticket already punched, and another fighting to stave off elimination, the edge tonight went to the more desperate squad.
The Ducks, having clinched a Pacific Division crown two nights ago, weren’t able to maintain their winning ways in a 4-2 defeat to Colorado in front of 17,201 at Honda Center. Matt Duchene potted the go-ahead goal on the breakaway nearly midway through the third period and the Avs held off Anaheim the rest of the way as they clung to their flickering playoff hopes. They also snapped a four-game winning streak for the Ducks, who still hold the NHL’s best record at 50-23-7 (107 points).
Colorado went in front for good when Duchene ran down a puck flipped ahead by Dennis Everberg and scored on the breakaway despite hard pressure from Sami Vatanen.
The Avs put the game away with 1:24 left when Everberg jumped on a loose puck and filled the empty net from center ice.
"The sense of urgency is a big thing," said Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin. "We only have two games left before the playoffs. Obviously, we did some good things the last four games, but tonight wasn’t good enough. We gave up way too many odd-man rushes against, and too many penalties. We need to be more disciplined, especially with the playoffs coming up. We can’t keep taking three, four or five penalties a game."
After their apparent first goal was waved off for goalie interference, Colorado finally did get the game’s first tally 6:33 into the first when Jarome Iginla made a nice backhand feed on the rush to John Mitchell for the one-timer.
Anaheim got even a minute later when Jiri Sekac chased down a turned-over puck and sprinted on a breakaway, fooling goalie Reto Berra before burying the backhand.
The Ducks went in front with two minutes left in the period as Corey Perry tried to reverse field behind the Colorado net, lost the puck off his blade and Rickard Rakell flipped it into the open net, as Berra was fooled again.
A James Wisniewski holding penalty opened the door for the Avs to tie it with 3:08 left in the second, as Gabriel Landeskog took in an Alex Tanguay pass in the slot and slung it top corner.
Colorado held the Ducks scoreless over the final 20 minutes with the help of Berra, who had 35 saves on the night.
"You have to give them credit. They played well," Beauchemin said. "We had a lot of shots on net, and their goalie had a pretty good night. I would’ve liked to have seen more guys at the net to get the rebounds because there were a few out there. We just couldn’t get there to put it in."
Ducks winger Stefan Noesen made his NHL debut tonight after battling back from two major injuries the past two years -- an ACL/MCL injury and a torn Achilles. "I definitely had a little bit of jitters in the beginning," said the 22-year-old. "As the game went on, it’s starts to be hockey and those feelings go away. It was a dream come true."
Anaheim doesn’t play again until next Wednesday when they take on the Dallas Stars on Fan Appreciation night at Honda Center, the home finale before wrapping the regular season the following Saturday in Phoenix.