WASHINGTON — Judgment day came and went Saturday.
Mighty Duck Coach Bryan Murray said it would take 20 games to properly evaluate his team. So here is where the Mighty Ducks sit after a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in front of 17,298 at the MCI Center.
"Same [stuff], different season," defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky said.
The Ducks have become part of the healing process for other teams. They played the Washington Generals role for the Capitals, who were 2-8-2-0 in their previous 12 games and were outscored, 16-5, in losing their last two.
Adam Oates had a goal, his first of the season, and three assists. Jaromir Jagr, slowed by an injured knee, had a goal and an assist. Goalie Olaf Kolzig, who had given up 10 goals on 39 shots in the previous two games, stopped 28 of 29 shots. All were part of group therapy night for the Capitals.
While the Capitals broke out of their slump, the Ducks have plenty to worry about. The Ducks, mired in a six-game winless streak (0-4-2), are getting precious little offense. They had only 11 shots through the first 35 minutes Saturday. Their power play was blanked in six tries, running a scoreless streak to 27 consecutive power plays.
Injuries, which accelerated the Ducks' trip to the bottom of the Western Conference last season, again have them on a rapid descent. Steve Rucchin, their top center, and Keith Carney, the backbone of the defense, are out for at least two more weeks.
The much-ballyhooed corps of young players is struggling ... with minor league Cincinnati. Jonas Ronnqvist, Timo Parssinen, Antti-Jussi Niemi and Maxim Balmochnykh have not been called on to help. On the bright side, Kevin Sawyer had two fighting majors and a misconduct, reclaiming the league lead with 98 penalty minutes.
"We cannot lose Keith Carney off the defense," Murray said. "The minutes he played, the role he played, the influence he has in [the locker room]. You can't lose a guy like that and think your defensive corps is going to be as good. The same with Rucchin. He's our No. 1 center. We can point fingers and say other guys won't step up. They are just not first-line centers and it is not fair to ask them to go there."
Samuel Pahlsson was asked Saturday. He scored off a slick drop pass from Paul Kariya in the first period. Kariya fed him again in the second period with the Ducks down a goal in the second period. This time, Pahlsson fired high over the net.
Others were quicker to blame the power play than bemoan the loss of players.
"It's up to everyone to step up, not just the guys at those positions," Kariya said. "We are playing really good hockey five-on-five. For the most part, we've played with some passion. But when you don't score goals ... you're not going to win games. And that all starts with the power play."
The Capitals showed how effective the power play could be, especially with the number of early chances they received.
The Capitals had not scored a goal in 21 power plays over the last four games, but had the game's first five chances. Jagr made good on the first one, knocking in a rebound for his sixth goal this season and a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game.
Three minutes later, Oates picked up a Duck turnover in the neutral zone and slipped a pass to Matt Pettinger, who blasted a shot into the upper left-hand corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Ducks, who have scored two or fewer goals in 14 of 20 games, were in trouble. And their coach was more than a little miffed.
"You can't kill five penalties in a row, two of them a two-man advantage, in their building and expect to win the hockey game," Murray said. "In the end, penalties end up somewhat even, because that's the way it's suppose to be."
In the end, though, it probably wouldn't have mattered how many power plays the Ducks received. Kolzig turned them away in the second period, stopping four shots, all prime chances.
But the Ducks looked unsure of themselves on most of their man-advantages.
"It's all confidence," Tverdovsky said. "I mean, I blame myself. I have a job to do on the power play and I'm not doing it."