After a couple of stellar back-to-back overtime victories, the Anaheim Ducks hoped to continue their winning ways against the number one team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night.
The Canucks had won their game on Saturday afternoon with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, knocking the Kings to eighth place in the Western conference. The Ducks, who were just a point behind them in ninth, hoped for a victory to get them back into the top eight.
However, that was not the only thing on the line for the Ducks.
With the Western conference as tight as it is, a loss could potentially mean the Ducks falling further in the rankings due do the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators, both of which were close behind the Ducks, also playing in games on Sunday.
With four points separating the fifth spot in the conference from the eleventh, each game becomes more critical and each loss seems harder and harder to swallow as the impact of one could, in the end, mean the difference between a run in the playoffs or the ending of the season in five weeks.
Less than minute into the first period, Manny Malhotra put the puck past Ducks goaltender Dan Ellis, giving the Canucks a very early 1-0 lead and from that point the Canucks never faltered.
The Ducks had a couple of power play opportunities later in the period but were unable to capitalize.
Again in the second, this time a mere 17 seconds into the period, Malhotra scored off a Ducks defensive turnover in their own zone. And, despite outshooting the Canucks in the period, 10-6, the Ducks still had trouble finding their way around Cory Schneider, who was in goal for the Canucks, giving Roberto Luongo a night off.
“Any time you get scored on at the start of both periods, it’s not a good sign,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf reflected. “It put us behind the eight ball.”
The Canucks did not score in the opening minute of the third period, but they did seal the game about six minutes into it, with a goal from Daniel Sedin and the Ducks still unable to find the net.
“We were just a little bit stagnant tonight,” said Ellis. “I don’t think we gave them much at all, but when we did they capitalized on their chances.”
“We just didn’t play well enough to give ourselves a chance to win the hockey game,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle added about the loss.
The Ducks fell into 10th place in the Western conference after the Wild earned a point by going into overtime and will face their last Eastern conference opponent of the season, the New York Rangers, at the Honda Center on Wednesday night.