By Adam Brady (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ANAHEIM – Few could have predicted when the Ducks let Michael Leighton get away in November of 2006 that he would come back to haunt them.
But less than two years later, Leighton saved 32 of 33 shots for the Carolina Hurricanes in beating the Ducks 3-1 in another frustrating loss at Honda Center.
|The Ducks put the pressure on Leighton, but couldn't get anything past him.
Despite putting the heat on over the final two periods, the Ducks got nothing more than a second period goal from Francois Beauchemin. And the Hurricanes put the nail in the coffin with an Eric Staal empty-netter with 38 seconds left in the game.
The Ducks, who were coming off their first victory of the year last Friday, fell to 1-5-0 on the season.
"I think it speaks for itself," Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said of the team's slow start. "We are not happy. The first few games in the year we really didn’t play well. The last maybe three we’ve scrambled back and started to work harder. It doesn’t always turn right away. Tonight, we just came out with a slow start. Offensively, we’re not running smoothly."
It was the first visit to Honda Center for Carolina since Dec. 6, 2005 and the first matchup between the two teams since Dec. 29, 2006. Carolina won on both occasions.
The 27-year-old Leighton spent the beginning of the 2006-07 season with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Portland before being claimed on waivers by Nashville. He played one game in Nashville, then spent time in the Philadelphia system before landing in Carolina, appearing in three NHL games last season. But he played well enough in the AHL to earn the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award as league’s outstanding goaltender. He also had an AHL record 98 saves in a playoff game for Albany, in a losing effort.
He gave up three goals in his only appearance this season prior to this game, earning a win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 11. Tonight he was mostly flawless, earning the 13th win of his 52-game NHL career.
"It was a little bit different than the Tampa game," Leighton said. "They definitely threw everything at the net and I faced a lot more shots."
Carolina opened the scoring six minutes after the opening faceoff after taking advantage of a Ducks defensive breakdown. Eric Staal emerged from behind the net to slip a pass through the crease behind frozen d-man Steve Montador, and Bayda batted through the open left half of the net.
Despite several opportunities, the Ducks couldn’t tie it until 5:33 remained in the second period when Beauchemin ripped a high slap shot that eluded Leighton thanks to a Samuel Pahlsson screen.
But Anaheim’s glee was short-lived as Rod Brind’Amour put the Hurricanes back ahead a little more than four minutes later. Giguere got caught out of the net on a botched slap shot by Niclas Wallin, and tried to kick the puck away from Brind’Amour. But Giguere couldn’t quite get to it as Brind’Amour scooped it up and slipped it behind him.
It was a tough way to end the second period for Anaheim, which controlled the puck for most of it and outshot the Hurricanes 12-6. That continued into the third, as the Ducks had repeated opportunities and a shot advantage of 10-4. One missed opportunity was especially agonizing, as Todd Marchant nearly punched in a loose puck in a crowd and it sat a few inches from the stripe before Leighton located it and smothered it.
"It’s unbelievable," Teemu Selanne said of the team's tough luck. "We’re not getting any bounces. The puck was on the goal line, all kinds of things are happening but it’s not going in our favor. I think it was great effort again and we deserved better than this."
Anaheim emptied the net down a goal with 1:20 left in the game and looked like they would have a power play after Joe Corvo cleared the puck from in front of the Carolina net over the glass. But after a brief meeting, officials determined that the puck was deflected on its way out of the rink. Replays clearly showed it was never touched after it came off Corvo's stick.
That disappointment for Anaheim was soon compounded when Staal cleared the puck from just outside the crease and it traveled the length of the sheet before hitting the left post and bouncing in.
The 1-5-0 start for the Ducks equals their worst since compiling a 1-4-1 mark to start the 2003-04 season. Anaheim hopes to turn it around with a Canadian road trip that starts in Toronto on Tuesday.
"A change of scenery will maybe do us good," Niedermayer said. "We’re in a tough spot right now and not happy with the way things have gone up until now. We have to think positively and work harder than we have."
Added Selanne, "I think this team needs time to hang around together. That is why this road trip is going to be very good. We’re going to have a few days off after the Toronto
game. It’s going to be very important for this hockey club right now. This is a great group of guys here. We can turn this around."
The Ducks honored eight different Orange County Olympians with a special ceremony before the game.
20:00 - END OF GAME - Things get a little heated in the corner as the horn sounds, a show of frustration for the Ducks as they get off 33 shots but still lose 3-1.
19:22 - CAROLINA GOAL - ERIC STAAL - Just outside the Carolina crease, Staal sends the puck down the ice toward the lonely net and sneaks it off the left post and in. Tough way to go for the Ducks, who were right on the doorstep.
18:51 - Ducks net still empty.
18:51 - Joe Corvo tries to clear the puck out and it sails over the glass. The officials come together and decide it was deflected, so no penalty. Absolutely horrible call, as replays show no one else touched it. The video board shows the crowd the replay and they're not happy.
18:40 - Giguere heads to the bench.
18:00 - Two minutes left and the Ducks need one now.
17:00 - Prongs snaps his stick in half attempting a one-timer from the point.
Just spotted a rogue tennis ball sitting six rows behind the originals.
15:44 - CAR Penalty - Sergei Sansonov, 2 min. hooking. Samsonov knocks the stick out of Chris Kunitz's hand. The Ducks need to take advantage.
15:10 - Leighton holds a length-of-the-ice shot from Pronger and the official blows the whistle just as it looks like Leighton is trying to give the puck up. Getzlaf, who was charging in to knock it loose doesn't look too pleased.
12:20 - After stealing the puck behind the net,. Getzlaf feeds a charging Perry in the slot, but his shot is snuffed out. Perry can't buy one this season.
11:18 - The Ducks almost get another one as Leighton tries to free the puck but it squirts lose behind him and just goes wide.
11:00 - McIver is back after taking that puck to the face.
9:31 - The Ducks should have had one here, as Marchant punches high at a loose puck and it's sitting in the crease, inches from the goal line as Leighton can't see it. Selanne tries to follow up and tap it in, but he's denied by the Carolina defenseman before Leighton falls on the puck. You can't get much closer than that. Tough break for Anaheim.
8:01 - Now Beauchemin takes a stick to the face, on Pitkanen's follow through on a pass. No call.
6:52 - McIver gets hit in the face with the puck and he's bleeding pretty badly as he's taken to the locker room.
4:31 - Boos as the Hurricanes clear the puck away with 20 seconds left on the power play.
2:51 - CAR Penalty - Eric Staal, 2 min. slashing. Unbelievable that they didn't call a blatant hook on Staal right before that, where he took down Selanne in front of an empty net. I've never been on this bandwagon, but I'm starting to think the officials call Ducks games very poorly. More calls go against the Ducks, with their reputation for toughness, than any visiting team. And some of the calls they miss against Ducks opponents are ridiculous.
1:14 - CAR Penalty - Joni Pitkanen, 2 min. cross checking. The PA announcer says, "Alright fans, you know what to do. Your Ducks are on a power play." Not to sound harsh, but do the Ducks
know what to do?
0:00 - Ducks need a goal. How often are we saying that lately?
During the intermission, we see on the press box TV that FSN is getting ready to do an on-camera interview with Brind'Amour and the camera zooms WAY in on his face. Not a pretty sight. I feel nauseous. In case you're wondering why, here's Brind'Amour.
18:48 - CAROLINA GOAL - ROD BRIND'AMOUR - Giguere is thrown off when Niclas Wallin makes bad contact on an attemped slap shot and it slowly bounces to Brind'Amour in front of the net. Giguere is out too far and tries to kick the puck away, but can't get to it, so Brind'Amour slips it behind him. It's 2-1 Carolina and a few boos rise up from the Honda Center crowd.
18:20 - Ducks dodge a bullet when Giguere is now caught out of position, but a shot from the slot goes way wide.
16:15 - Pahlsson has a chance at one when the puck bounces to him with Leighton out of position, but he whiffs on the one-time try.
14:27 - ANAHEIM GOAL - FRANCOIS BEAUCHEMIN - With a delayed whistle on what would have been a Carolina penalty, Beauchemin wrists a rising shot from the right point that eludes Leighton, as Sammy Pahlsson does a great job to screen him. Almost looked like Pahlsson tipped it too, but apparently not. Second of the year for Beauchemin and second in as many games. He didn't get his second of the year until Jan. 13 last year and only had two the entire year.
Always love the shots of fans dancing during the timeouts. The highlight was an enthusiastic dude with a beer in one hand who looked like a cross between Ricky Schroeder and Matthew McConaughey in "Dazed and Confused."
13:01 - Nathan McIver and Dan LaCouture get into a fistfight away from the luck. McIver gets in a few body shots before dragging LaCouture to the ice. Second fight in as many games for the shaved-headed McIver. LaCouture was signed by the Ducks in 2007, but failed to report to Portland and ended up overseas before going to Carolina. Maybe McIver took exception to that.
12:20 - Perry gets the puck batted out of traffic to him near the post, and he throws a quick shot on net, but Leighton is ready for it. Looked like a sure goal for Anaheim.
10:01 - The Ducks are actually outshooting Carolina 20-17. But none of the 20 have gone through. What do you expect against a guy who once had 98 saves in one night?
During the timeout, the Rod Stewart lookalike is shown on the video board, and he uses the opportunity to run all the way to the top of the aisle and dance his way back down. Kind of an odd scene, to be honest.
8:15 - The Ducks put a few on net as they spend a good amount of time in the Carolina zone, but nothing through.
5:35 - Sutherby picks up the loose puck with Leighton flat on the ice and the net open, but he's at a tough angle and can only throw it off the outside of the post.
5:00 - Selanne does a nice job to intercept the puck as Carolina tries to clear it, but his shot is kicked away by Leighton.
2:00 - ANA Penalty - Ryan Carter
, 2 min. tripping. I didn't see it, but it doesn't mean it didn't happen. The penalties continue for Anaheim.
0:00 - Off and running in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Not a great opening 20 for the Ducks of Anaheim, as they give up 14 Carolina shots, commit a few penalties and go down 1-0. Here's hoping for better things after this short break.
18:10 - Yet another close call for the Ducks, as a Moen redirect try is kick saved. Something's got to go through eventually for the Ducks. Right?
Red Sox are up 1-0 too. I'm not all that happy right now.
16:10 - Selanne tries to redirect a nice Beauchemin pass from the wing, but Leighton is there.
15:37 - Getzlaf whips a shot from the slot that clanks off the post. Will he ever get a goal, that guy?
14:58 - CAR Penalty - Tim Gleason, 2 min. holding. Chance for the Ducks to even things and get their second power play goal of the year.
It's trivia time and the guy is asked from which city did the Hurricanes relocate from. The choices are Hartford, Winnipeg and I'm not sure the third one. The contestant literally yells into the mic his guess of "Hartford!", waking up the entire crowd. But he's right, so it was worth it.
The tennis balls are back! All is right in the world.
12:48 - The Ducks get a huge kill, despite Carolina being on the doorstep on a couple of occasions.
12:02 - ANA Penalty - Kent Huskins, 2 min. hooking. Huskins takes down Sergei Samsonov with the stick. It's a 5 on 3 for Carolina.
10:48 - ANA Penalty - Steve Montador, 2 min. tripping. Not Montador's best game so far.
9:40 - Michael Leighton kicks away a long Ryan Getzlaf
shot. It should be noted that Leighton not only spent the 2006-07 season in the Ducks' system with the Portland Pirates, but last year he had 98 saves
in an AHL playoff game. And lost. The Ducks, by the way, lost him on waivers a couple of years back and now he's starting against them. Sound familiar?
9:03 - The Ducks kill it. It's about the only good thing the Ducks have done so far tonight.
A girl no older than 9 is shown on the video board with a Ducks towel printed with the words, "Marry me, Ryan Getzlaf." Yikes.
7:03 - ANA Penalty - Rob Niedermayer, 2 min. roughing. Niedermayer is punished for going after Tim Gleason after Gleason tripped big bro.
6:00 - CAROLINA GOAL - RYAN BAYDA - Eric Staal emerges from behind the net to slide a pass through the crease (behind a slow-to-react Steve Montador) to Bayda, who is all alone as he bats it into the wide open left side of the net. Easy goal for Carolina and it's 1-0.
3:40 - Sutherby on the ice, playing for the first time after two healthy scratches.
0:00 - It's about 10 minutes late because of the ceremony, but we're underway at Honda Center.
5:12 p.m. - Eight Orange County Olympians (all clad in Ducks jerseys) are honored on the ice before the game, the goosebump-inducing coming when they show a replay of Irvine's Jason Lezak coming from behind to win the 4 x 100 freestyle relay for the United States. The entire building -- crowd, players, Olympians, look up at the screen to watch the replay of the victory -- and the crowd cheers near the finish as if they're watching it live. Very cool moment.
5:09 p.m. - Nice rendition of the anthem from young Jenny Swoish.