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Sloppy effort proves costly to Anaheim

by Eric Stephens
ANAHEIM -- Nice and tidy was the kind of game that Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle described in what he wanted for Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals Tuesday night.

Nice and tidy it wasn't.

The Ducks had a chance to take a stranglehold on the best-of-7 first-round series, but let the very things that made much of the regular season a struggle creep back into their game in their 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Anaheim still has a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 on Thursday night (10:30 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS). But after a maze of mistimed passes, unforced turnovers and bad penalties of which the Sharks took advantage, the Ducks feel as if they lost an opportunity.

"We definitely didn't play the way we did in San Jose," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "Real frustrating. We're still in the driver's seat. We've just got to make sure that we play better on Thursday."

The Ducks were charged with 13 turnovers on the night. They committed just five minor penalties -- one fewer than each of the first two games -- but couldn't keep San Jose from breaking through on the power play after shutting the unit down.

Rob Blake scored with the man advantage in the first period and Patrick Marleau delivered the game-winner midway through third on an assist by the veteran Blake, who was set up in the same spot on each play.

The Ducks had killed off the first 13 San Jose power plays, including six each in Games 1 and 2 that were a big part of their victories at HP Pavilion.

"They made some plays on the power play," Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer said. "You're not going to stop them from scoring forever. They have a lot of talent out there. We're going to have to probably look at the tapes again and maybe make some adjustments.

"When you get into a tough playoff series like this, playing the same team, it's a game of adjustments after each game."

The Ducks' penchant for ill-time penalties haunted them Thursday. Corey Perry took a hooking penalty on Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle in the neutral zone, hoping to force Boyle into a turnover.

Instead, Perry's misdeed turned into Marleau's winning moment.

"In that situation, it's a dumb time to pick your stick in and it caught us," Perry said. "I take full responsibility for that one.  I was just trying to make a play but trying to do too much. With 10 minutes to go in the game, it's not the best time to take that penalty."

Unfortunately, it's nothing new for Anaheim, which has been one of the League's most penalized teams since the lockout.

"For tonight, we took a penalty late in the middle of the third period and it caught us," Carlyle said. "I think that we didn't play to the level that we've played in the last two previous games. I just don't think we were happy with our team game in a lot of areas.

"It wasn't like they didn't try. They just didn't execute."

The focus now shifts to Game 4, where the Ducks hope to get back to playing the way they did to close the regular season and start these Stanley Cup playoffs. In a series where the road team has won all three games, Anaheim wants to be the first to succeed in front of the home fans.

It won't be easy. The Ducks were just 20-18-3 at Honda Center this season and top-seeded San Jose has its confidence back.

"It's big," Whitney said of Game 4. "We've got to get a win here. We don't want to lose two games here. We got home ice to our advantage and we want to keep it."

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