ANAHEIM – Try as they might, the Ducks couldn’t quite manage to climb all the way out of an early hole in a 4-3 defeat to the Sharks at Honda Center.
Anaheim’s attempt to come back from two different three-goal deficits came up one short as they never found the equalizer during a high-energy third period. Bobby Ryan’s beautiful wrist shot 5:36 into the third got the Ducks within a goal, but that would be as close as they’d come in their first game out of the All-Star break. It was just the fourth loss in the last 14 games for Anaheim, while the Sharks improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven.
The Ducks, who went into the break as one of the league’s hottest teams, came out of it looking anything but, as they found themselves in a major hole in the first period. The Sharks scored early and often, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first 11:15 of play, starting with a Dany Heatley strike just 14 seconds after the opening faceoff.
"We were lethargic to start the game," Ryan said, "and going down 3-0 to a division rival is a tough hole to crawl out of."
Rookie Cam Fowler, who had a second period goal in the Ducks' comeback attempt, added, " I’m not sure if we were a little rusty after the break, but there are no excuses. We can’t have a start like that, especially in our own building.
"I thought our guys did a good job of battling back, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough."
Heatley backhanded in his own rebound under Jonas Hiller to give the Sharks the very early lead. "When they scored on the first shift, it should have been a wake-up call and we continued to let them build off of it," Ryan said. Indeed, seven minutes later, Ben Eager let go of a wrist shot from the high left wing on the move that beat Hiller on the far, blocker side. At 11:15, a Jason Demers slap shot from the right point skidded along the ice and dove inside the far post.
The Ducks responded to that goal by pulling Hiller, who had a game-high 15 saves over one period of work in his first All-Star Game last Sunday in Raleigh. Curtis McElhinney came in and gave up just one goal, to Ryan Clowe in a second period in which the Ducks started their comeback bid.
They got on the board 5:44 into the middle session on a pretty wrist shot from Joffrey Lupul that darted inside the far post, Lupul’s first goal since Dec. 28. But any hopes of getting closer in that period were dashed when Clowe put the Sharks back up three goals on a power play rebound goal following a Fowler hooking penalty.
Fowler redeemed himself in more ways than one two minutes later, however, on a power play goal of his own that made it 4-2 with 2:08 left in the period. Fowler, who was denied on two straight slap shots and a wrister in a matter of seconds, finally broke through when he punched in a rebound off a Corey Perry shot from the slot. Fowler responded with a yell and a fist pump as he went to one knee. (Fowler’s dad Perry was in the crowd, part of the annual dads road trip that the Ducks will take them on this weekend.)
Ryan was equally animated when he scored from the high slot in the third, after he looked to pass the puck off to Brandon McMillan on the rush and instead whipped a shot over goalie Antti Niemi. Ryan was denied by Niemi minutes later in an attempt to tie it, as was the Anaheim power play, which couldn’t convert following a Eager delay of game penalty midway through the period.
"When we scored there in the third, the whole momentum shifted," Ryan said. "We controlled the play for the better part of the third. They did a good job. They held onto a lead that they should have."
San Jose, which erased a three-goal deficit to beat Phoenix last night at home, made sure they weren’t victimized the same way tonight, as they evened the series with Anaheim two games apiece. They also pulled into a tie with the Ducks in the Western Conference standings (though Anaheim has played one more game).
The Ducks hit the road with their dads for the first of four straight away games, Saturday in Colorado.
"We haven’t played that type of hockey in a long time," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "But those are the things that you have to deal with. We’ll come to work tomorrow and prepare for the next one because we can’t do anything about the one that just went by."
20:00 - Ducks can't get much around the net in the final seconds and fall short, 4-3.
19:40 - McElhinney to the bench.
19:30 - Ducks can't get it out of their end.
18:20 - Perry, Ryan and Koivu on with 1:40 left.
17:00 - Sutton nicely stickhandles in deep, but Niemi stones him.
14:50 - McElhinney a nice save on a shot from the slot as the Ducks continue to fight hard.
14:00 - Koivu back out there.
13:10 - Ryan just barely denied by Niemi's skate on the doorstep.
12:41 - McMillan tries a wraparound that Niemi stops and repeated bats at the rebound don't get through either. Bit of a scuffle after Niemi freezes the puck, but no penalties.
11:28 - Koivu is shaken up as he possibly takes a puck off the face while getting knocked down by Huskins. Trainer Tim Clark comes out, but Koivu looks okay.
11:22 - Ducks don't get much going on the power play as a Visnovsky shot is deflected into the crowd with seven seconds left in it.
9:29 - SJ Penalty - Ben Eager, 2 min. delay of game. Eager flips the puck out of his own end high over the glass, and the crowd loves it.
7:20 - Sexton races around Boyle on the right wing, goes to the backhand right in front of the net and gets denied on a great stop by Niemi. Roof would have come off this place if it had gone in.
5:36 - ANAHEIM GOAL - BOBBY RYAN - Ryan takes a drop pass from Perry and looks like he wants to lay it off to McMillan on the right wing. But instead, he looks to the next a half second before whipping a wrist shot top shelf. An absolutely unreal shot by Ryan and it's Ducks within one, 4-3.
2:30 - Selanne just wide on a one-timer try off a Koivu pass. Ducks have had a couple of those tonight.
0:00 - Here we go in the third, Ducks with some ground to make up.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Ducks get goals by Lupul and Fowler, but give one up to Clowe and it's 4-2 going into the third.
17:52 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - CAM FOWLER - Fourth time's a charm for Fowler, who gets denied on two straight slap shots, then on a wrister from in deep. But seconds later, Perry works hard to get off a shot from the low slot, which deflects off Niemi to Fowler, and he chips it into the open net. Never seen Fowler so excited, as he sprints away from the net and goes to one knee for the right-arm fist pump. Perry Fowler happens to be in the crowd tonight with the rest of the Ducks dads, so that might be it. It's 4-2 now.
16:36 - SJ Penalty - Bench minor, 2 min. too many men on the ice. Ducks have to make something happen here.
15:39 - SAN JOSE GOAL (POWER PLAY) - RYAN CLOWE - San Jose cashes in on the man advantage as a Boyle slap shot from straightaway hits off McElhinney and leaks toward Clowe, who punches it into the open half of the net. It's 4-1 San Jose.
13:57 - ANA Penalty - Cam Fowler, 2 min. hooking. Fowler hooks Setoguchi from behind on a crossing pass on the rush.
13:00 - Niemi makes a last-second save as a surprising shot from deep by Visnovsky goes off Lapierre's leg and nearly kicks in.
9:10 - Collision in front of the net looks like interference to the crowd. No call.
8:07 - Niemi leaves a fat rebound off a Sbisa shot, but no Ducks are there for it.
6:30 - SJ Penalty - Patrick Marleau, 2 min. boarding. Marleau bangs Ryan into the wall behind the net and the Ducks have a chance to get closer.
5:44 - ANAHEIM GOAL - JOFFREY LUPUL - Lupul breathes some life into the building by picking up a Lapierre pass at the blueline, skating in on Murray and slinging a wrist shot that beats Niemi on the stick side. Lupul is pumped up and so is this crowd. It's 3-1 Sharks on Lupul's first goal since Dec. 28.
5:13 - One shot on goal between the teams so far.
0:00 - Here we go in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Rough start to the other side of the All-Star break for the Ducks, who go down 3-0 after one and send Jonas Hiller to the bench.
18:41 - Koivu steamed as his one-timer from in deep is stopped by Niemi.
17:44 - SJ Penalty - Ryan Clowe, 2 min. slashing.
11:15 - SAN JOSE GOAL - JASON DEMERS - Demers takes a pass from Clowe and fires a one-timer from the point that skids along the ice and dives inside the far post. Might have hit a skate, might have hopped off the ice. Either way, it's 3-0 and Hiller is out, McElhinney in.
We play Name That Theme Song at the timeout and they play the theme from what I think is Mr. Belvedere. Middle-aged gentleman has no idea what it is, and when they announce "Mr. Belvedere" on the PA, I'm feeling pretty proud of myself.
8:12 - SJ Penalty - Dan Boyle, 2 min. tripping. Boyle takes down Selanne and the Ducks get an opportunity to try and turn this game around.
7:34 - SAN JOSE GOAL - BEN EAGER - Eager gets the puck just behind the redline and skates in against Visnovsky, firing a wrist shot from the high left wing that somehow eludes Hiller on the far, blocker side. It's 2-0 Sharks.
7:10 - Hiller with a kick save just after Sutton rejoins the boys.
4:57 - ANA Penalty - Andy Sutton, 2 min. tripping. Late call as Sutton drives Heatley into the wall with the leg.
4:15 - Perry gets in a little scrap with Huskins around Niemi after the whitle.
3:45 - Hiller with a good kick save on a Clowe one-timer from the slot.
1:15 - Lupul nearly jams one through off a Ryan feed.
0:14 - SAN JOSE GOAL - DANY HEATLEY - Heatley picks up the puck off the wall behind the Anaheim net from Thornton, then tries a wraparound backhand that Hiller stops initially, but Heatley punches in the rebound. That was awfully quick.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center.
7:04 p.m. - On the KDOC broadcast, Johnny Ahlers looks like he just walked out of a speakeasy in that pinstriped suit.
Sharks phenom and leading goal scorer Logan Couture out with the flu. Starters in bold/italics.