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Ducks Can't Catch a Break in 3-1 Loss


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jeff Friesen plopped down next to the goal post Monday, like a bewildered child. Matt Cullen leaned on the crossbar, not believing this was happening to the Mighty Ducks.

Moments before, the puck danced tantalizingly close to the goal line, but would not go in. Columbus goalie Ron Tugnutt made one save on a shot, then caught a break when the rebound went off a skate and hit the post. No goal.

It was only the second period. There was no score. But the Ducks were headed south again.

Columbus' 3-1 victory in front of 18,136 at the Nationwide Arena was a bit repetitive. The Blue Jackets' are 6-0-0-1 in two seasons against the Ducks.

The Ducks' loss was pretty much a rerun. They got bushels of chances and no goals, until Oleg Tverdovsky belted home a power-play shot with 1:34 left. Too little, too late.

For the second consecutive game, the Ducks took a scoreless tie into the third period, then gave up two goals. They lost to Chicago, 2-1, Sunday. About all that changed Monday was the opponents' uniforms.

Columbus' Ray Whitney scored after the puck ricocheted, then bounced a couple of times, to break the scoreless tie. Grant Marshall tried to center a pass, only to have the puck hit Pavel Trnka's skate and go in the net for a 2-0 lead. The Ducks never recovered.

"Give us one of those," Cullen said. "It's there enough, just give us a break. One bounce is all we need. That's the frustrating thing, because we're doing enough things to win."

More than enough.

The Ducks had 15 first-period shots, all quality chances. Tugnutt denied them. He stopped 27 of 28 shots with a handful of brilliant saves. The Ducks carried that play into the second period. The kind bounce wasn't there.

"It looked like it could have been 3-0 at the end of the first period," Coach Bryan Murray said. "Ron made a couple really big stops. We put the puck into him a couple times when he was out of position. That's the way it's been lately. We make every goaltender the first star of the game."

The Ducks have scored no more than two goals in 30 of 42 games, leaving their goalies and defense with little margin for error.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere continued his spectacular play in December, stopping 32 of 34 shots.

"I can certainly never complain about that area," Murray said. "The disappointing part is they have to pitch a shutout almost for us to win."

If there was one team in the NHL the Ducks figured to be better than offensively it was Columbus.

The Blue Jackets had 69 goals before Monday, the fewest in the NHL.

Their power play ranked only above that of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Yet, the Blue Jackets were the ones celebrating goals in the third period.

First, Brett Harkins corralled a bouncing puck and managed a cross-ice pass to Whitney, leaving Giguere out of position.

Whitney slipped the shot between the legs of center Marc Chouinard, who tried to cover the net, for a 1-0 lead 6:11 into the third period.

It ended a streak of 30 consecutive penalties that the Ducks had killed.

The Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead less than two minutes later with the type of break that has killed the Ducks many times this season.

Marshall was knocked down in the corner and, when he got up, found the puck at his feet. He centered a pass and got a deflection.

Kevin Dineen scored an empty-net goal with 19 seconds left.

"It's tough to keep your head," Cullen said. "It's tough not to say, 'This is one of those nights again.' That's kind of been the story the last few games."

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