Anaheim Ducks Lose 6-2 in Embarrassing Fashion to Florida Panthers

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Nov 16, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry (10) during a break in play against the Florida Panthers during the third period at Honda Center. The Florida Panthers defeated the Anaheim Ducks 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks looked to close out their time in California with a strong game. After a four-game homestand ended with the Ducks going 1-0-3, the Ducks made a quick visit to Staples Center in Los Angeles, where they fell 3-2 in overtime to the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks got reinforcements back in the form of right wingers Corey Perry and Kyle Palmieri. With the team getting a superstar winger back, the Ducks were expected to finish off a final home game against the Florida Panthers strong.

That didn’t happen. The Ducks were thoroughly dominated and dropped the game 6-2 in convincing fashion. The Panthers were engaged and locked in, ready to pounce on mistakes, while the Ducks failed to get going, turning this into a one-sided affair very quickly.

Florida struck first just 4:40 in the game. Clayton Stoner tried to pinch the puck in the offensive zone, but Scottie Upshall got a pass to Tomas Kopecky, who had Vincent Trocheck on a two-on-one against Cam Fowler the other way. Fowler did what he could to defend the play, but Trocheck fired a shot past Frederik Andersen to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The goal was Trocheck’s first goal of the season, and he has all of his points on the season in his previous four games (one goal, four assists) while on a four game point streak.

The Ducks would strike back to tie it, however. Ryan Kesler had the puck in the slot, but couldn’t get a shot away as the puck was put to the corner. Emerson Etem, moved to the second line with Kesler and Matt Beleskey, fed the puck to Hampus Lindholm at the left point, who fired a shot past Al Montoya to tie the game 12:16 into the first period. The puck deflected off Derek MacKenzie, giving Lindholm his second goal of the season. The first period would end with the score tied at one.

The second period was when things absolutely fell apart for the Ducks. Brad Boyes got the scoring started for the Panthers just 1:23 into the second. Jonathan Huberdeau sprung Nick Bjugstad with a stretch pass. Andersen came out to make himself big against Huberdeau, but that allowed Boyes to get behind Andersen, and Huberdeau found him for an easy goal to make it 2-1.

Bjugstad would get on the scoreboard himself at the 4:11 mark. He received a pass and just pulled a power-move around Sami Vatanen and cut across into the slot area, where he fired a shot to beat Andersen. That made the score 3-1, Florida, and coach Bruce Boudreau opted to pull Andersen for Jason LaBarbera. Andersen had played the day before, stopping 34 of 37 shots before allowing three goals on nine shots on Sunday. With an assist on the play, Jussi Jokinen recorded his team-leading ninth assist and tenth point, making him the first Florida player to reach ten points on the season.

Florida would make it 4-1 at the 10:02 mark of the second period. Huberdeau made a great move to carry the puck in the offensive zone around Cam Fowler. Huberdeau threw a pass into the crease area, but no Florida player was there. The puck came to Bjugstad at the wall, who fired cross-ice to the right point, despite there not being anyone there either. However, Aaron Ekblad, the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, made a quick decision to fire the puck on goal, and Huberdeau was there to redirect the puck past LaBarbera. This gave the rookie Ekblad his tenth point, extending his lead among all rookie defensemen. Huberdeau, who won the 2013 Calder Trophy, scored his second goal and second assist of the season on Sunday.

The Panthers made it 5-1 on their only power-play opportunity of the game. Perry was called for unsportsmanlike conduct from the bench. On the penalty kill, the Ducks tried to make a couple clears, but Ekblad made some quick decisions to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Eventually, a perfect passing sequence by Brian Campbell, Jokinen, and Boyes led to Boyes passing up a pass to Aleksander Barkov and shooting the puck himself. The puck deflected off Josh Manson past LaBarbera. The second period ended, but the damage had been done, with the Ducks facing a major 5-1 deficit with 20 to play.

The third period started better: the Ducks began skating much better than they had in the first 40 minutes. The Ducks decided to go back with Andersen in net after LaBarbera did not fare much better, who gave up two goals on 14 shots. The effort was better, but the team still made careless decisions with the puck. A defensive zone turnover by Ryan Getzlaf fell to Dylan Olsen, who got the puck to Boyes. Instead of shooting to get a hat trick, Boyes dropped the pass to Bjugstad, who fired a terrific shot past Andersen to make it 6-1 just 4:55 into the third period.

The Ducks would get one back, but that would be it. Manson led the rush and made a pass to Andrew Cogliano, who scored his second of the season. The puck deflected off the stick of Willie Mitchell, the Panthers’ captain, past Montoya with 1:45 left in the game. Despite that goal, Montoya was outstanding for the Panthers, stopping 33 of 35 shots on the night to get his team a win in the first game of a four game road trip.

The Ducks were beat in all phases Sunday, but it started with the fundamentals. In the NHL, all players are professionals for a reason. Teams should not expect to win when they do not skate or compete hard, nor do they deserve to. The Ducks were thoroughly embarrassed in a game that felt eerily similar to their 6-2 embarrassment exactly six months ago to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 on May 16th, 2014.

The Ducks are shorthanded, missing a lot of bodies. But that was an excuse given at the beginning of the last homestand, when the team was missing Perry. He returned, yet the lack of effort was present in the sound defeat. When this team is skating and competing hard, the Ducks can beat their fair share of teams with the 18 skaters they dress. When this team does not, they can look silly out there. The latter happened, and the Ducks must regroup mentally before their next game.

Here are my three stars of the game, though this was rather difficult, considering how poorly the team played.