Less than a week ago, the Ducks had a legitimate claim as the NHL’s best team.
Now they just want to win a game.
The San Jose Sharks on Monday handed the flailing Pacific Division leaders their third consecutive loss at home, 5-3, as the grind of the lockout-shortened schedule and reality they’ll be taking every opponent’s best shot from here forward is at hand.
“We were soft in a lot of ways, they out-battled us,” defenseman Sheldon Souray said after San Jose (14-11-6) improved to 5-10-2 on the road by out-shooting the Ducks, 39-27.
“It’s usually us out-muscling teams. They did that to us, beat us at our own game. Mentally, we have to recharge and refocus. It’s more that than our legs being tired.”
But fatigue does look to be at play, too. After two periods, San Jose out-shot the Ducks, 31-17.
The Ducks (22-6-4) were playing their fifth game in eight days and haven’t had two consecutive days off since Feb. 22-23, with Monday being their 17th game in 30 days.
Now they head to the road for four games.
“No excuses,” wing Corey Perry said after his goal with 1 minute 40 seconds left was rendered meaningless by a San Jose empty-net goal by Dan Boyle. “Everyone’s got short days. It’s a little adversity we’ve got to deal with.”
They won’t practice Tuesday before boarding a flight to San Jose for a Wednesday game. And they won’t get two straight days of rest again until April 11-12.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau made Viktor Fasth the starting goaltender after Jonas Hiller played Sunday’s game and was needed in relief early in the second period Friday after Fasth gave up three goals.
But a night after Hiller was struck by two goals in the first 10 minutes, Fasth surrendered two in 7:10.
“We have to win battles out there,” Fasth said. “I can’t let that many goals against me. There’s mistakes I want to fix.”
A pass from the back boards by Martin Havlat was converted into a goal by Brent Burns, who fired over Fasth’s left shoulder 5:46 into the game.
Joe Pavelski then gathered a loose puck in front of Fasth and shot it past the goalie.
That marked the seventh goal against Fasth in less than five full periods since the 30-year-old rookie returned from a March 8 upper-body injury.
The Ducks tried to lean on the minor momentum of killing off two penalties late in the first period, but those hopes were soured 34 seconds into the second.
Defenseman Matt Irwin blasted a shot that careened off Fasth’s chest to Havlat, who followed with a shot into the net for a 3-0 lead.
Badly in need of an answer, rookie Emerson Etem scored for the second time on the five-game homestand by charging toward the Sharks’ net and flinging a shot that bounced off San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart into the goal 8:16 into the second.
The Ducks made it 3-2 when Ryan Getzlaf dished a pass between the face-off circles to Francois Beauchemin, who fired a left-handed shot past Antti Niemi.
James Sheppard scored for a 4-2 lead with 9:56 to playt.
The Ducks announced season tickets will rise by an average of 4.1% next season. … Veteran right wing Radek Dvorak, who signed with the Ducks on Sunday, cleared waivers and reported to Honda Center. After playing with Davos of the Swiss league, Dvorak, 36, is awaiting work visa clearance before joining the Ducks.