- The Anaheim Ducks raced out to an early lead and didn't look back, as goals by Ryan Getzlaf, Radek Dvorak and Sami Vatanen vaulted the visitors to a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers Monday night at Rexall Place.
With the win, the Ducks have clinched the Pacific Division over the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles with a 29-11-6 record for 64 points.
Viktor Fasth made 24 saves for the Ducks, earning his fourth shutout of the season.
"It's hard," said Sam Gagner, searching for words post-game. "You look around and teams have done this at times, where you have a year where things spiral out of control at the end. But when it happens a few years in a row, it tends to wear on you. It's unacceptable to play that way. The one thing you can hold your hat on is your compete level and showing pride in what you've accomplished.
"You don't get to the NHL without working hard and putting in the time. We can't forget that when these games are going on. We need to continue to push through and be proud of how we handled things down the stretch."
Separate penalties (hooking and interference) to captain Shawn Horcoff gave the Ducks a pair of power-play chances before the ice was dry in the opening 20.
The second proved costly as Ryan Getzlaf scored to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 6:13. Collecting a Francois Beauchemin rebound as Corey Perry guarded the opposite side, Getzlaf swooped in and deposited the puck past Nikolai Khabibulin on Anaheim's eighth attempt.
Khabibulin made 25 saves in the loss.
At this point in the game, the Oilers had yet to record a shot on goal.
"We did not get a good start today and did all the things that are wrong," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger.
Performing a give-and-go with Taylor Hall moments later, Jordan Eberle and the Oilers almost got it back. Cutting around Cam Fowler and backhanding a shot on goal, Fasth came up with a brilliant initial save while Daniel Winnik raced to the scene and cleared the rebound.
The Ducks made it a 2-0 game at 11:48. Dancing around the entire Oilers defence, Emerson Etem delivered a no-look backhand pass to Radek Dvorak at the lip of the crease. With an empty net to shoot for, the ex-Oiler made no mistake in registering his fourth goal of the season and second in as many games against his former club.
In 24 career games against the Oilers, Dvorak has now recorded 10 goals and 22 points.
"We saw the 'A' game from Anaheim and I'll tell you, we couldn't match it," said Krueger. "We can't rise to that level. We're going to try to regroup and find it, but the disappointment of when you look at us in the last while, you don't recognize the team that was in eighth place at the 35-game mark.
"They never let up on us.
"What's happened here is frustrating for everybody."
With the loss, the Oilers' record drops to 17-21-7. The club has now lost eight of nine and remains in 13th in the Western Conference with 41 points.
"It's frustrating to continually do this," said Gagner. "The game was there for taking if we continued to stick with it. I understand that we've lost a lot of games here and it tends to wear on you mentally, but you have to battle through and stick to the game plan.
"We're going to get our chances to score and we're going to score on them as long as we stick to what we know. We haven't done that and it's frustrating.
The Oilers had an opportunity to put a dent in the Ducks lead with a power-play chance late in the period, but a shorthanded breakaway by Etem (denied by Khabibulin) was the best scoring chance to come of it.
Anaheim led 13-9 in shots after one and the damaged had been done.
"We're not aggressive enough to score on our opportunities," said Krueger. "We're not giving the fans something to cheer about. We take responsibility for that."
In an otherwise dull second period, Ryan Smyth ignited the crowd late with a workmanlike effort off the rush that resulted in the Oilers' second power-play chance of the game. Like two others on the night, the man-advantaged passed without a goal.
The Ducks added an insurance marker at 3:55 of the third. Sami Vatanen recovered a loose puck at the point, backpedaled into the high slot and blasted a slap shot that sailed top shelf.
"It's frustrating for us," said Ladislav Smid, who played 20:24 and recorded a -1 rating in the loss. "I thought we had a pretty bad start with two penalties and it gave them the momentum they needed. It wasn't the start we wanted, but I thought we picked it up in the second period. But we didn't capitalize on our chances and that was the difference.
"We've got to be professional and battle it out."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick