After being forced to wait longer than every other team to open the season, the Anaheim Ducks played nothing like a club that is a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup.
The three-time defending Pacific Division champs look to bounce back against one of the hopefuls seeking to dethrone them as the Vancouver Canucks visit Honda Center on Monday night.
Anaheim watched as the 29 other teams played their season openers, then flopped when it got its chance in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at San Jose. It was outshot 44-27, including 17-3 in the final period as the Sharks controlled much of tempo.
It wasn’t an ideal start for the Ducks, who hadn’t played a game that counted since losing to Chicago in the Western Conference finals May 30, marking the third straight postseason it lost a Game 7 at home.
"We know how hard we have to work," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It’s a game where they worked from beginning to end. We had spots where we were gliding. We can’t afford to do that."
Frederik Andersen made 42 saves but was one of the few who looked on top of his game. Boudreau tried to spark Anaheim by splitting up Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who have played on the same line for much of their careers.
"We were still in preseason mode," Andersen said.
The Ducks will have to snap out of it quickly in preparation for Vancouver, which is coming off a surprising second-place finish in the division and looking take another step forward this season.
The Canucks opened with a home-and-home series against Calgary – which beat Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs – and won 5-1 behind a goal and two assists from Daniel Sedin on Wednesday before falling 3-2 in overtime Saturday.
Vancouver led the latest contest by a goal heading into the final period, then lost out on a point when a turnover during the 3-on-3 extra session led to the winner.
"It’s frustrating to have a lead in our building in the third period and give it up," said Ryan Miller, who made 35 saves. "But we’re going to have to go with the good and the bad and there was some good stuff tonight."
The second period was especially promising, as 20-year-old Bo Horvat scored just over two minutes in before 19-year-old rookie Jared McCann netted his first NHL goal 9 1/2 minutes later.
McCann made a positive impact despite finishing with a team-low 9:36 of ice time.
"I almost blacked out (because of the excitement) to be honest," McCann said. "It was a great feeling, but obviously it would have been nice to end the way we wanted."
Vancouver had lost nine of the previous 10 meetings with the Ducks before Horvat’s goal helped the Canucks win the last matchup 2-1 on March 9. Andersen stopped 14 of the 16 shots he faced but dropped to 6-1-1 with a 1.22 goals-against average against Vancouver.
Miller has posted a 4.12 GAA while going 0-2-1 in his last three starts against the Ducks but has a 2.88 GAA in five career games at Anaheim.
Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler sat out Saturday with an illness and his status is unclear.