How quick is the turnaround at the start of this compacted 48-game season?
The Anaheim Ducks (2-1-0) went from Pacific Division darlings to expressing concerns about their penalty killing and discipline in the span of two and a half hours Friday night.
Six days after their offensive outburst in a season-opening 7-3 win over Vancouver at Rogers Centre, the Canucks (2-1-1) repaid the favor in Anaheim’s home opener by scoring three times on nine power plays in a 5-0 win over a frustrated and at times retaliatory Ducks team.
“We’ve got to find a way to stay out of the box and not let our emotions get the best of us, because some of those penalties were just emotional penalties,” forward Bobby Ryan said. “It happens. It’s hockey.”
A sequence of plays that represented the team’s concerns took place late in the second period when Corey Perry was questionably checked into the boards behind the Vancouver net and immediately saw red when regaining his balance. His response got him dinged with charging and elbowing penalties – the Canucks scored on the second half of the power play – before he lost his composure in an early third period shift in which he drew a five-minute fighting major, while his counterpart, Keith Ballard, was assessed only a minor penalty for roughing.
When the dust settled, Anaheim’s most skilled player spent a total of nine minutes in the penalty box and took only one shot on goal.
“We didn’t do ourselves any favors,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “The first period they were all penalties. Mine was a penalty. [Bryan Allen’s] was a penalty. We can’t fault [the referees] for that. Throughout the game, it got a little carried away, obviously, with the calls and non-calls and stuff. But we lost. They came out and outplayed us tonight. Their power play was better than our penalty kill.”
And that’s a heavy concern early in the 2013 season. By virtue of a lackluster six-of-nine shorthanded effort, the Ducks’ penalty kill actually improved to a league-worst 56.2%.
It’s a development that appeared unlikely after a terrific five minute stretch to open the game in which Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider stood on his head to keep the home side off the scoreboard en route to earning his fifth career shutout.
But Daniel Winnik was whistled for holding at the 8:11 mark, followed by a Getzlaf cross checking penalty 31 seconds later to put the Ducks two men down for the first time this young season.
After another 31 seconds, Henrik Sedin shuffled a cross-crease feed to his brother Daniel, and all of a sudden Anaheim was forced to fight from behind against a comfortable Vancouver offense.
“A lot of times on the first power play, you’re rushing things. You’re doing the wrong things,” Ryan explained. “When that turns into a five-on-three, you really get to settle it down. It calms your best players down, and their best players went out and scored. And then they got to go again, and again and again, and it just felt like we were trying to play catch up all night in that department.”
Though there were legitimate concerns over the officials’ reluctance to assess minor penalties against the Canucks in particular situations, the point was moot. The Ducks were beaten soundly in all 200 feet of the ice Friday night in yet another episode of two teams combining to play mistake-prone, preseason-esque hockey that happens to count for two points in the standings.
“Emotions get the best of you a little bit sometimes, and it kind of ran away with us the last 20 minutes where it was helter skelter hockey,” Ryan said.
Fortunately for Anaheim, there’s no time to sit around dwelling on an all-around forgettable performance. A short attention span will be in their favor when the Nashville Predators visit Honda Center Saturday night (7:30 pm / FOX Sports West) to round out the quick two-game, two-night homestand.
“That’s the benefit of this league, especially this half of the year,” Getzlaf said. “We get to get right back at it tomorrow.”