Another game, another loss for the Ducks. This one came in a shootout but was the result of the same formula we’ve seen all too often for the Ducks this season. They had everything going for them: they scored the first goal of the game early, they took the lead into the third period, they played disciplined, Jonas Hiller played well, and they had a two goal lead with five minutes to play in regulation. But they still found a way to lose.
The Ducks scored the first goal of the game on a laser shot by Joffrey Lupul, who was a surprise addition to the lineup. On a 2-on-1 with Corey Perry, Lupul decided to fire the puck and scored high glove side. The puck hit the inside post and came back out of the net quickly and the on-ice referee signaled no goal, but the video review proved the puck went into the net.
The Ducks would score again in the second period, this one on a power play goal by Bobby Ryan. Ryan Whitney was standing below the goal line and centered the puck to Ryan who was coming down the slot. Ryan one-timed the puck high to the glove side to give the Ducks a two-goal lead.
Minnesota would score later in the second period to pull within one goal, but the Ducks still looked to be playing well. They hadn’t taken many shots while Minnesota took quite a few, leading the Ducks 20 to 9 at the end of the second, but the Ducks were playing smart.
The Wild came out for the third period shooting, controlling the puck for a long stretch in the first few shifts of the period. They would eventually score the tying goal just a minute and 17 seconds in, and Ducks fans everywhere said “Here we go again…”
But the Ducks responded less than two minutes later on another goal by Lupul. This one came on a delayed penalty when Lupul fired a shot from the right faceoff circle with Perry completely screening Minnesota Goalie Nicklas Backstrom.
And if that weren’t enough, Ryan scored his second goal of the game just before the halfway mark of the third period. This one was unassisted and came as he did a 360-degree spin and shot on the backhand. The puck deflected on its way into the net.
But as all Ducks fans have become accustomed to, the Ducks just can’t hold a lead, even when there’s only five minutes to play. Minnesota would score at the 15:05 mark and tie the game at four with under two minutes to play, the latter coming on a power play. It was only the Ducks’ second minor penalty of the game.
The Ducks would eventually waste a 4-on-3 power play in overtime before the Wild missed on their chance with an overtime power play of their own late in the extra session.
The teams went to a shootout and the Ducks, without Teemu Selanne, only scored one goal on four attempts as Backstrom won the game for the Wild. Lupul was the only one that was able to convert and he extended the shootout a round with his successful attempt, but Saku Koivu was unable to convert on his after the Wild took the lead.
The Ducks can now officially say they are the worst team in the Western Conference, at least by the standings. To be fair, though, they were tied with Minnesota for that honor before the game started, but the result of this one makes it pretty clear.
Jonas Hiller was not the reason the Ducks lost today, but I think it’s fair to say that J.S. Giguere has earned the number one spot for the time being. Giguere should start a majority of the upcoming games this month if the Ducks want to win any games, because they need a spectacular save every once in a while, and Hiller isn’t providing enough of that right now.
I would like to hope for a trade, but I still think it might be too early for a change like that. Believe it or not, the Ducks still have a chance to make the playoffs. Many of their games remaining in the season are against divisional opponents, and winning those games will be huge in their comeback effort.
But the good news is there are only minor issues that need to be addressed. The most obvious right now is holding on to the lead in the third period, something the Ducks are starting to struggle with. The power play is good, the penalty killing is much improved, they played a disciplined game, but it just didn’t work out. The Ducks should win every game in which they score four goals, but it’s not automatic yet.
Have hope, Ducks fans. The team has been playing relatively well and I know everyone can see it. Let’s see how the Ducks do in this ridiculously scheduled month of December and then we can make decision to start chopping off some heads.