Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa tries to take the puck from Sharks center James… (Josie Lepe / McClatchy-Tribune )
SAN JOSE -- The Ducks confront not just the problem of overcoming four consecutive losses. They could also be revealing the script opponents should follow to clinch their demise.
"We have to find the crux of the problem of our starts sooner or later because every team in the NHL sees this and will say, 'Get on them in the first five minutes, they're never ready,'" Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Turning in what could be strongly argued as their worst performance of the season, the Ducks were beaten by the San Jose Sharks, 4-0, Wednesday night at HP Pavilion, giving up three goals in the first 9 minutes 20 seconds.
That follows back-to-back two-goal deficits in the first 10 minutes Sunday and Monday versus Detroit and San Jose, respectively.
"We've got some guys who are working their [rears] off and then we have continually the same passengers every night," Boudreau said. "Those passengers, we rely on them heavily. We were a 20-man team when we were successful. We can't do it with 10 or 12, and that's what it seems these four games have been like."
The Ducks (22-7-4) not only faced the 3-0 deficit, they had taken no shots in the process.
The "structure" they often speak of was absent Wednesday, as their attempt to pressure the Sharks' goal was ineffective if not nonexistent in their first shutout loss since Jan. 25.
They took just 22 shots against San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi, who also beat the Ducks on Monday.
One minute in, San Jose center Joe Pavelski scored a wraparound goal to beat Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller.
Hiller was down 2-0 just 4:52 into the game because Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau scored his 16th goal of the season on a shot from the faceoff circle to Hiller's right.
Three minutes after that, Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray was forced to pull down a Shark streaking toward Hiller, drawing a penalty that set up Brent Burns' power-play goal.
Burns scored when Ducks wing Emerson Etem tried sweeping the puck out of the crease during a Sharks attack. The puck slid directly to Burns, who slammed it past Hiller again.
"We're just not ready first," Hiller said. "We talk about it and don't do it. We've got to change something.... Right now, we want to do too much. We don't trust each other that much that everybody's doing his job.
"Everybody wants to do the other guy's job too. We start running around all over the place. That's something we need to look at."
The Ducks have now been outscored 36-27 in the first period this season.
With a third meeting against NHL points leader Chicago coming Friday, Boudreau took the unusual step of arranging a Thursday practice upon the team's arrival at United Center.
"It's all about work, we're not working hard enough, not winning battles," Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "Hockey's not that complicated. You've got to want it more than the guy next to you."