COLUMBUS, Ohio — — This wasn't as big a crash-and-burn exercise as after the last time the Ducks beat the Chicago Blackhawks earlier in March.
At least Anaheim salvaged a point from an often spotty showing Sunday at Nationwide Arena as the resurgent Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Ducks, 2-1, in overtime. Center Mark Letestu, who set up the Blue Jackets' first goal, scored the winner with one minute left in overtime, beating goalie Jonas Hiller stick side with a shot from the left circle.
Granted, it was going to be tough to come back to reality after Friday's energizing win, one with a playoff-like atmosphere, by the Ducks at Chicago.
But the once high-flying Ducks have been mired in a goal drought since their win against the Blackhawks on March 20, scoring a mere eight goals in their last six games, going 1-4-1. Their goal Sunday came at 5 minutes 55 seconds of the third period from rookie forward Emerson Etem, a byproduct of his partnership with Andrew Cogliano and hard work from defenseman Bryan Allen, who forced the turnover.
That was it. And their special-teams woes deepened, as the Ducks have only one power-play goal in their last 11 games.
"I'm frustrated that you do play well and you keep pushing and pushing," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We're missing opportunities and you can say, 'Oh, we got good chances.' But we're missing opportunities that guys shouldn't be missing.
"I mean, they are right in front of the net. Rebounds. ... we're not going to the net or doing some things that are, not Duck-like. What we did the first 25 games when we averaged 31/2 to four goals a game, we're not doing now."
Hockey philosophers have mulled that question for years: How does a Duck recover its lost mojo and become Duck-like again?
Columbus had something to do with it, of course. The Blue Jackets, propelled in part by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, have climbed out of the hockey abyss, a 5-12-4 start and the firing of their general manager. Their win against the Ducks landed them in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, one point ahead of idle St. Louis.
Team after team trudged out of Nationwide Arena in March, including Detroit and Vancouver, wondering how they could have lost to Columbus. Even the Blue Jackets sense it.
"Down the hallway, the other team thinks they played a horrible game and can't understand how they lost," defenseman Adrian Aucoin told the Columbus Dispatch after Sunday's game. "They're angry."
The Ducks were not so much angry as confused and frustrated. They expected more after utterly dominating the third period, outshooting the Blue Jackets, 17-1. In fact, Columbus did not get a shot on goal until 3:24 left in regulation, a relatively harmless shot from Matt Calvert that glanced off Hiller's chest.
Columbus had a combined five shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of regulation. The Blue Jackets nearly matched it with four shots in overtime.
"Sometimes you wish you had more shots just to feel the game," Hiller said. "And feel confident. You definitely have a lot of time to think about things. That's what makes it tough once you start thinking how you want to play or should play.
"At the same time, I can't complain about not having shots against. I thought we did a good job up front. I think we should find a way to play like that for three periods."
But Hiller conceded his role in the loss, saying, "both were stoppable goals, definitely."
When: 5:30 PDT.
Where: American Airlines Center.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 830.
Record vs. Dallas: 1-1.
Update: The Ducks have three straight games against Dallas, starting tonight. The next two are in Anaheim. "We're going to try to put together a full 60," Etem said. "It's crucial points. They're fighting for a playoff spot over there."