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Penalties lead to another familiar defeat for Ducks

November 20, 2008|Chris Foster | Foster is a Times staff writer.

New blood put some life into the Ducks on Wednesday. Old habits drained them.

Bobby Ryan seemed to fulfill at least a portion of last summer's prophecy, when Ducks' officials said he was destined to skate on their top line. But by the end of a 6-4 loss to the Washington Capitals, Ryan was reduced to a feel-good blip.

Ducks fans at the Honda Center were treated to a stop-me-if-you've-heard-it-before game, where their team took so many penalties it is doubtful the seat in the box ever had a chance to cool off.

That resulted in three power-play goals by the Capitals, two in the first four minutes, and a recurring question.

Why?

"This is the biggest problem we have," Teemu Selanne said. "In the past, we have had the ability to kill these penalties and now we are giving up two or three power-play goals every night. If you're not going to kill the penalties, then you shouldn't be taking them."

This is how good teams turn bad.

For all the damage that Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin inflicted on the ice (he had a goal and three assists), the Ducks skated away knowing this was a self-inflicted wound.

For every spark that Ryan ignited -- he tied the team rookie record with two goals and also had an assist -- the Ducks were able to douse it with a steady procession to the penalty box.

After cutting the deficit to 6-4 on a goal by Selanne with eight minutes left, the Ducks got caught with too many men on the ice at a time when they controlled momentum.

A somber dressing room left players stating the obvious.

"Guys aren't moving their feet," said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who replaced Jonas Hiller with the Ducks trailing, 3-0, seven minutes into the game. "You have to dictate play, get the puck out of your zone and pressure the other team. All that comes from moving your feet."

This has become like repetitive stress syndrome for the Ducks, who led the NHL in penalty minutes the last two seasons and are fourth this season.

Last season, Dallas eliminated the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs, scoring 10 of their 20 goals on the power play, and the Ducks appear to have not learned the lesson.

"We've only talked about it 250 million times," Coach Randy Carlyle said. "Obviously we have to resort to drastic measures. It's a situation where we will continue to make changes."

The Capitals took advantage of those Ducks' shortcomings early and often.

The Ducks' Bret Hedican went off for hooking. The Capitals' Tomas Fleischmann redirected a shot at the crease for a goal 2:19 into the game.

The Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf was called for interference. The Capitals' Mike Greene fired a shot from the blue line for a 2-0 lead 3:54 into the game.

Even after Ryan kick-started the offense with a goal and an assist to cut the deficit to 3-2, the Ducks faltered again. Rob Niedermayer was called for slashing, which led to an Ovechkin power-play goal. He has six goals and 14 points in his last five games.

"We have the guys here to get this done," Selanne said. "But everyone has to change, from the top guys down to the last guy. Everyone has to do a better job. The only bright spot we had tonight was Bobby Ryan."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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