The way Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle protected Jean-Sebastien Giguere, maybe he should have been in net Friday night.
Even though the Ducks managed a regular-season record 54 shots and an effort that was just as relentless, it wasn't enough to prevent a 5-3 loss to Edmonton that ended a five-game win streak and made their playoff prospects precarious again.
Though Giguere gave up two goals in the first 108 seconds, and four in only seven shots, Carlyle wasn't about to publicly blame the goalie -- even if he did pull him from the game twice.
"You can point the finger at that, but that's not what we're about," Carlyle said of Giguere's play. "The power play could have done better, the penalty killing could have held them off, we couldn't have turned the puck over.
"We win and lose as a team. It's not one or two individuals that are going to bear the brunt of criticism when we do lose. We share in the responsibility when we win and we share in the responsibility when we lose."
Nevertheless, the loss was costly for the Ducks. Their winning streak had propelled them from 12th place less than two weeks ago into seventh place. Edmonton leapfrogged the Ducks and Nashville into seventh place. The Ducks are ninth and could be in 10th place by the time they turn in tonight if Nashville and St. Louis win.
Earlier in the day, Carlyle identified as reasons for the Ducks' surge the resurgence of the power play and the improvement of the checking line. But, first and foremost, the Ducks' goaltending had given them a chance to win games.
But 1:11 into the game, after the Oilers dug the puck out of the corner, Shawn Horcoff slid a pass between Giguere's pads and Dustin Penner, the former Duck, knocked it into the net. Barely half a minute later, Teemu Selanne turned the puck over, and Andrew Cogliano pounced on it and fed it to Fernando Pisani, who fired it past Giguere's glove.
Carlyle sent backup goaltender Jonas Hiller into the game, but after the faceoff the Ducks' George Parros dropped his gloves and brawled with Jean-Francois Jacques. By the time they were escorted to the penalty box, Giguere was headed back out to the ice.
"I did it for the simple reason to stop what was going on out there," Carlyle said. "I thought it would settle things down and it did."
The Ducks tied the score on a pair of Ryan Getzlaf goals, but Edmonton scored twice -- just nine seconds apart early in the second period -- and Giguere left for good.
"My job was to give our team a chance," Giguere said. "There's nothing I can do except focus on tomorrow."
The high stakes led to some unusual faces in the penalty box -- Bobby Ryan, Selanne, Todd Marchant and Petteri Nokelainen, who between them had 92 penalty minutes entering the night.
But Edmonton was committing its share of penalties too. In all, the Ducks had seven power-play opportunities.
They scored once, but they came up empty in their two best chances -- a 5-on-3 advantage for 81 seconds late in the first, and a four-minute 5-on-4 advantage midway through the third when Jacques was booked for a double minor.
That one came after they'd closed within 4-3 on Corey Perry's goal 3:25 into the third period. The Ducks' last chance evaporated on an empty-net goal by Ales Kotalik.