The Columbus Blue Jackets are out of the playoff picture. They played the night before, whereas the Ducks were rested. They had their butts handed to them, 6-0, by the Kings. They put in a back-up goaltender.
All systems go for the Ducks to get a critical win at home, right? WRONG!
Historically, the Ducks have played to the level of their opponents. They seem to be able to elevate their game against a stronger opponent, but they sink to the level of a lesser foe. They have struggled against back-up goalies as well.
In last night's 5-2 defeat, the Ducks really were the lesser foe. It did not help that Mathieu Garon was stellar for the Blue Jackets in net. Jonas Hiller? Chased from the net after the third goal went in.
The Ducks were flat, once again, from the start. And unlike the last game where they gave up a lead, this time they never even had one to protect.
Derek Dorsett put the Blue Jackets on the board at 8:55 on a delayed penalty call. With the extra attacker, Columbus stormed the net and Dorsett picked up the loose puck and stuck it behind Hiller. Dorsett then proceeded to the penalty box after taking on Matt Beleskey in a fight, just the beginning of the animosity between the teams that led to a combined 76 minutes when all was said and done.
The Ducks could have had a 2-1 lead going into the second, but Garon made two impossible saves. The first on Dan Sexton, the second on Bobby Ryan. Both times players swore they were goals, only to be cruelly denied. Fans knew things were not going well and booed Anaheim loudly after the first period. Never a good sign.
Jakub Voracek made it 2-0 on the power play at 8:14 of the second, catching Hiller "guessing" what he was going to do, rather than reacting. The Swiss goalie, who has looked tired since returning from the Olympics was further left out to dry by teammates when Fedor Tyutin scored at 13:07. That was it for Hiller and Curtis McElhinney, acquired at the trade deadline from Calgary, was sent in. Hiller's look of disgust on the bench said it all.
The Ducks finally got a little spark of frustrated life when Lubomir Visnovsky scored at 9:11 of the third period. Visnovsky, also acquired at the trade deadline, got his second goal in as many games and seemed to take things into his own hands when his new teammates refused to get the job done.
Ryan Getzlaf brought the Ducks to within one goal at 14:56 to give him the Gordie Howe hat trick. He had an assist on Visnovsky's goal and got into a stupid fight with Tyutin at the end of the second period, which kept him off the ice for the first five minutes of the final period. Sitting in the penalty box won't help your team one iota.
The Ducks kept pushing, something they should have been doing since the opening face-off, but a hooking penalty from Saku Koivu led to goal number four for the Blue Jackets, a power play goal from Antoine Vermette at 18:02. Derek Brassard added the icing to the Columbus cake with a final tally at 19:43. It was ok. Everyone left the building after goal #4 went in.
Playoff hopes? While not mathematically eliminated, they might as well be.
"The odds aren't in our favor," Ryan said. "There was a time where we could have controlled our own fate, but that might not be the case now. We're not in the driver's seat anymore."
Ryan, who still is young enough in the league to not give pre-recorded answers to media questions, went on to give a blunt assessment of the Ducks four-game losing streak.
"You can't come out of a break and lose four straight. It's unacceptable. Nothing's gone well. The power play hasn't clicked, and we're not getting the proper level of execution that we should be accustomed to with this lineup. It's been ugly."
Ugly indeed. But the team only has itself to blame as it continues to self-implode.
Nashville comes to town on Friday. They are fighting to maintain a playoff spot. The Ducks? Should be fighting to regain their dignity because these post-Olympic efforts have been embarassing.