It started off well, with Corey Perry scoring the first goal at 3:30. Perry's 30th of the year turned out to be the only Ducks goal of the game. Niklas Backstom stopped everything else.
The same could not be said for Curtis McElhinney, who continues to get the nod in goal because Jonas Hiller is on IR with dizziness and Timo Pielmeier, who is sitting on the bench as back up, has not played a single minute in the NHL. McElhinney, as on Wednesday, was not at fault for all the goals that went in the net.
"There need to be some saves made at critical points in the game, and they aren't happening right now," said McElhinney. "I need to find a way to get it done."
The Ducks affinity for turnovers (great from the bakery, crappy on the ice), did not help their cause one iota.
Mikko Koivu had tied up the game at 5:01 before blocking a shot with his hand and heading to the locker room. Koivu did not return to the ice for the rest of the game, but his teammates handled everything just fine.
"To lose a guy like we did during the game, everyone's got to step up a little bit and we did," said Kyle Brodziak, who had a goal and two assists. "He's a huge player on our team and it's a big void when he's not in there."
Anaheim had their second power play opportunity with Matt Cullen in the box before Brent Burns joined him with a double minor for high sticking. There was only :03 seconds of 5 on 3 time, but as soon as Cullen was out of the box the Ducks turned the puck over to Brodziak. Brodziak sent it down the ice to Cullen, who was a Duck for the first 427 games of his career. The crowd just knew Cullen was going to put the puck in the net and erupted when he fulfilled that hope at 15:07.
Short handed goal. 2-1 Minnesota. Game over.
Sure, they played the rest of the time, but for the Ducks, that was it. In the second period Eric Nystrom and Brodziak scored :27 seconds apart and completely blew the game out of the water. Martin Havlat's goal late in the third just added one more exclamation point to Minnesota's efforts.
The Ducks can ill afford to lose two games in a row at this point in the season. With a Western Conference race tighter than skinny jeans on an elephant, every point matters.
The Ducks are now clinging to 8th place in the conference and have no squish room whatsoever. There are four teams below them within four points of them in the standings. St. Louis, whom the Ducks play on Saturday, are just seven points behind.
Anaheim must redeem itself on Saturday and then turn around and make the most of the next 10 games, nine of which are at home. Regardless of who is in goal, the Ducks need to score and not commit sloppy plays that bite them in the butt. If they can clean things up, they might give themselves a better chance. Otherwise, playoffs can be turned over to more deserving teams.