The Ducks continued to stagger toward the Olympic break Monday night at Honda Center, where their recent flaws again were on display in a 4-2 loss to Columbus.
In the same place where they started the season 20-0-2, the Ducks lost for the fourth time in five home games. Overall, they have lost three of their last four and are 4-5 in the nine games since their 18-1 surge ended in mid-January.
They again fell behind in the first period, again committed penalties that led to power-play goals and again looked like they can't wait to reach the three-week rest from NHL action that begins after Saturday's game at Nashville.
Before that, the NHL-leading Ducks (40-13-5) face Chicago, their closest pursuer in the Western Conference, on Wednesday at Honda Center, with the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks (34-10-14) now within three points of Anaheim after beating the Kings on Monday.
"It's frustrating with our effort," Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said after Monday's game. "They came out ready to play . . . and we just didn't respond. We're at that point of the year where you've got the break coming up, and we're trying to focus on hockey and everyone else wants you to focus on everything else around it."
Getzlaf, who scored his 27th goal with 3 minutes 19 seconds left in the game, is among seven Ducks who will play in the Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Others have family vacations and other respites to anticipate.
"We've got to finish this right," Getzlaf said. "It's not just the Olympians. . . . When you're planning your trips, getting ready for the break. We're not focusing on hockey. That's the only explanation I can think of, because we're not focused, not doing the things we do well."
Columbus (29-23-4) got two goals from forward Nick Foligno in the third period — one on a two-man advantage — in winning for the 11th time in 14 games.
Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky extended the Ducks' scoreless streak to 106 minutes 9 seconds before center Mathieu Perreault made it 2-1 with 14:15 left in the third.
"It's all about us," Perreault said of the Ducks' noticeable drop in energy. "We're going through the motions."
Columbus extended its first-period lead to 2-0 on a power-play goal late in the second, when Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger's right skate was struck by a shot from defenseman teammate James Wisniewski and the puck careened past the left leg pad of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen.
"I've got to be better, save a couple of those and give us a chance," said Andersen, who is 14-3 after losing for the first time since Dec. 29.
Bobrovsky made a diving stop on the Ducks' Andrew Cogliano on a two-on-one opportunity, and fans in the subdued arena then chided the Ducks to show more life after a hooking penalty on Columbus forward Matt Calvert led to no scoring threat of significance.
"We just got outworked," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Lost all the one-on-one battles. The other team's hungrier. The sense of urgency is not there. If you want to win, it's got to be there every night."
Columbus' 21-year-old star Ryan Johansen scored his team-best 23rd goal to put the Blue Jackets ahead in the first period, for good, it turned out.
"Why isn't Columbus distracted? . . . They've got guys going to the Olympics," Boudreau said. "It boils down to will and want."