ANAHEIM – The euphoria of a triumphant victory at Dodger Stadium wore off when the Ducks returned indoors to the usually dependable Honda Center.
Anaheim struggled to get things going throughout the night against the visiting Minnesota Wild, who scored twice in the third period on the way to a 4-2 victory.
"I don’t know if it was an emotional letdown, but it was certainly a letdown in our play," said Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy. "We didn’t play well. We were far too loose with the puck. We didn’t bring it tonight."
It was just the second regulation loss at home (21-2-2) for the Ducks all season, but the second in the last three games there, as an Anaheim team that had won 21 of the past 24 games proved fallible. Anaheim still remained at the top of the NHL standings with 83 points, six better than St. Louis and Chicago.
The Ducks were coming off back-to-back wins against the rival Kings, the first Thursday night at Honda Center, and the last a 3-0 victory in the historic Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium last Saturday night. But tonight, the Ducks couldn’t mount a comeback after entering the third period down a goal and giving up two quick ones to the Wild in the third.
"We talked about that and we knew we came off two big wins against the Kings," said Luca Sbisa, playing tonight for the first time since November 22 after suffering a hand injury in a fight. "But we knew we had to leave that behind. If you want to stay up top, you have to expect to show up every night. You can’t expect to win every night, but you have to expect to show up and give it everything you got. I don’t think we did that tonight."
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said simply of his team, "We weren’t very good. There’s no reason when we’re playing a team as good as Minnesota that we should have a letdown, even though the L.A. games are a little more emotional than other games. I don’t believe in that stuff."
Minnesota struck first tonight on a fluky goal eight minutes into the game, as Jason Pominville flipped the puck from well behind the net, and it deflected off the back of Jonas Hiller and snuck inside the near post.
Anaheim got it back late in the period, as Ryan Getzlaf fed from behind the net to Dustin Penner, who hammered home a one-timer from the top of the left wing circle.
The Wild went back in front just 13 seconds into the second, on a power play that carried over from the first, when Zach Parise fed from the left wing to Mikael Granlund, who punched it through from the slot.
"We were sloppy. In our zone, we stood around and watched a lot," Getzlaf said. "When teams get cycling, we tend to collapse a little bit instead of pressuring. We didn’t have our legs tonight, and that’s what changes that d-zone."
Minnesota took a commanding lead with two goals in a window of less than two minutes in the third, both on deflections. Parise tipped in a Marco Scandella point shot, then Erik Haula had a puck deflect off his skate over the stripe to make it 4-1 Wild.
The Ducks made it a two-goal game with the help of subsequent tripping and roughing minors on Minnesota’s Mike Rupp, and cashed in when Teemu Selanne slid the puck across the slot to Mathieu Perreault, who banged it into the back fo the net.
Selanne nearly got one during the remaining power play time, having his shot from the slot clang off the post, which got the best of both teams on that particular net a number of times tonight.
That was essentially the last time the Ducks threatened on the evening, as they started off a five-game homestand on the wrong foot. Their next test comes two nights from now against Philadelphia.
"We’ve won a lot of hockey games in the first half of the year," Getzlaf said. "We’ve made it a habit of not losing two in a row, so we have to focus on [Thursday]."