It seemed as though the Ducks couldnt get out of their own way tonight as the 29th place Atlanta Thrashers took every opportunity to score, defeating the Ducks 8-4 at home.
The Thrashers scored first, finally putting the puck through after JS Giguere blocked several consecutive shots in the first four minutes of the game. Teemu Selanne evened the score a minute later with a one-timer that barely gets past the Atlanta goalie, Kari Lehtonen. Unfortunately, the tied score did not stay that way for long. The Ducks have always had issues staying out of the penalty box, and tonight was no different. No less than six penalties were served by the Ducks in the first period alone, two of which allowed the Thrashers to gain a 3-1 lead.
Their third goal was scored in the first minutes of the second period, after Bret Hedican and Chris Pronger were escorted to the penalty box for hi-sticking and cross-checking minors late in the first. Their penalties allowed for 1:48 of a 5-3 advantage for Atlanta, which they capitalized on 1:26 into the second period. Within the next 6 minutes, the Thrashers were able to score three more times, earning Atlanta player Ilya Kovalchuck a hat trick. JS Giguere was pulled from the net after the first 5 Atlanta goals, but replacement goalie Jonas Hiller let one through less than one minute into his shift in the Anaheim goal. Giguere blocked 20 of 25 shots, and Hiller only 15 of 17 shots.
With Ducks fans still blinking in astonishment at the 6-1 score, Teemu Selanne took it upon himself to score another goal, tipping a midair shot in from Bret Festerling. The second period ended with a score of 6-2. Bobby Ryan got himself a goal in the first 2:26 of the third period to try and gain some momentum back, but it was short lived as the Thrashers scored a shorthanded goal after Atlanta player Tobias Enstrom was sent to the penalty box for roughing.
Still desperate to regain some of the control they lost in the game, Selanne, Ryan and Andrew Ebbett congregated in front of the net and make a conjoined effort to score halfway through the third, with Ebbett finally shoving one through to make the score 7-4. 6 minutes later Ducks fans dare to hope as Atlanta player (and former Duck) Mathieu Schneider gets sent to the sin bin for holding. The Ducks pulled netminder Jonas Hiller for an extra attacker and even with a 6-4 disadvantage, the Thrashers somehow steal the puck away and send it gliding down the ice into the empty net for a short-handed goal to end the game with a 8-4 score.
Clearly, the momentum of the game was not on the side of the Ducks. 6 penalties in the first period, for minor technical offenses like hooking, slashing, hi-sticking, and tripping shows a lack of discipline that the Ducks must maintain to be successful against any team, not just the division and league leaders. Allowing 5-3 advantages even to poor teams like Atlanta gives away any momentum gained during the first period, as evidenced by the four goal streak in a span of 6:51.
The Duck's next opponent, crosstown rival the Los Angeles Kings, are likely to take advantage of mistakes like the ones made tonight just as Atlanta did. The Ducks will have to sharpen up before Wednesday if they hope to be successful against an improving Kings team.
Elsewhere in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks lost tonight to the Colorado Avalanche, who are currently in the last place in the Western conference. Also on the losing side of a seemingly uneven match is the Detroit Redwings, who fell to the New Jersey Devils. A night of surprises all around.
A more pleasant surprise was the naming of former player and broadcaster for the Ducks, Dan Bylsma as the interim head coach for the Pittsburg Penguins, who just came off an Eastern Conference championship. Good luck, sir, we wish you the best.
Lets Go Ducks.