"It was pretty simple," said future Hall of Famer, Teemu Selanne. "We just ran out of gas. Mentally. Physically. Obviously you hate to use that as an excuse. It's a fact. Five games in seven nights? I don't know anybody who can survive from that."
Anaheim did not survive. Having played the night before in Boston and shutting out the Bruins, there just was no energy left to get it done in Buffalo. As a result, the Ducks lost 5-2 and head home to a soggy, rainy southern California for Christmas break.
At least the Ducks will get to be well rested for Christmas. One of the team presents will be no practices between now and their next game on Sunday. Four blissful, hockey-less days to enjoy holiday time with family and friends and most importantly, to rest and recover.
Even though the game was not broadcast on television, you knew right away things were not going to go the Ducks way. They took an early too many men on the ice penalty that led to the Sabres first goal at 4:43. Nathan Gerbe extended the lead at 10:05.
A poorly timed and thought out major boarding penalty by Jason Blake late in the first gave Buffalo five more minutes with the extra man and one less body for Anaheim the rest of the game, as he was booted off with a misconduct. It was no surprise when Tyler Ennis scored at 16:57.
The Sabres took a 3-0 lead into the second period and had outshot their opponent 17 - 4. It did not improve by much. A fight with Cody McCormick, started by Ryan Getzlaf right off the face off, did nothing to spark Anaheim.
Buffalo continued to outshoot and outwork the Ducks, making it 4-0 with a second goal from Ennis at 4:40 of the middle frame. It really was not Curtis McElhinney's fault, who has not had much help from the team in front of him the past two games he has started in relief of Jonas Hiller.
Ryan Miller, on the other end of the ice, had very little work to do until the end of the third period.
Determined to go home with their heads held high, even if they could not take two points with them, the Ducks finally put a puck behind Miller, who made 21 saves for the victory. Corey Perry scored on the power play at 15:36 and again at 19:51, also on the power play.
Never mind that the Sabres got another goal in between Perry's two markers from Craig Rivet (helped out by former Duck, Rob Niedermayer, who happens to live in Todd Marchant's Buffalo home.)
You win some. You lose some. The problem with the Ducks lately is the ones that they are losing leave you scratching your head in bewilderment. How can a team be so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Great play against one team can be followed up by a lackluster, boring effort.
Until the Ducks figure out how to be consistent, they will continue yo-yoing throughout the season and run the risk of missing the playoffs once again.
For now, they can just put this part of the five game trip behind them and focus on Christmas.
In other notes: Josh Green was recalled from Syracuse earlier today.