ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Anaheim Ducks’ downfall in their embarrassing loss to the Dallas Stars wasn’t necessarily because of their feet, their hands or even their hearts.
“It basically comes down to between the ears,” Anaheim’s Todd Marchant said.
One of the signs over the Ducks’ lockers reads, “Play with self-disciplined aggression. Control emotions when playing aggressively or you will be controlled by opponents or situations (i.e. bad call, cheap shot.)”
That sign of caution apparently slipped their minds Thursday night in the playoff opener against Dallas. The Stars got the aid of 11 penalties against Anaheim and did all their scoring on power plays to dominate the defending Stanley Cup champions 4-0.
“We talked before the series started that we had to play disciplined, and we didn’t do that,” Marchant said.
Looking to Saturday night’s Game 2 in Anaheim, the Ducks’ Todd Bertuzzi said, “We need to come out with the intensity we did in the first 10 minutes, sustain our energy and control our emotions.”
The Ducks outshot Dallas 8-2 in the first period, most of those coming in the opening 10 minutes, but Stars’ goalie Marty Turco swatted or smothered the puck each time.
Then Steve Ott scored on a deflection at 11:25 of the period and it seemed to deflate the Ducks. They went a stretch of almost 10 minutes from midway through the first period to about the same juncture of the second without getting off a shot.
The Stars finished with a 37-23 edge in shots.
The lopsided win gave the Stars a boost of confidence but also made them especially cautious.
“You’re never in a good place against the Stanley Cup champions,” Ott said. “They’ve battled through adversity, same as we have.
“It’s great that we’re up 1-0, but at the same time, we know they’re going to answer the bell and we’ve got to raise our level.”
Turco said, “We expected a tough, long series. We haven’t changed our thinking.”
Dallas coach Dave Tippett said he expects the Ducks “to come out with a vengeance,” but added that his players seem to be buying into his belief system.
“You’ve got to believe you’re going to win,” he said. “You execute your plan and say, ‘Hey, this is going to work.”‘
The Stars, who had seven power plays to the Anaheim’s three, played a solid all-around game. The Ducks looked out of sync in almost every regard.
After watching part of the game tape, Marchant said, “It’s not punishment; it’s reality. We weren’t very good. In the playoffs, you can’t come out and play the first 10 minutes and then not the next 50 minutes. That was tough to swallow.”
Some in the sellout crowd of 17,191 booed the Ducks when they fell behind 4-0 in the second period, then booed them off the ice at the end of the game.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said the players obviously were disappointed with their performance.
“Look in our room today, we’re not feeling very good about ourselves,” he said. “It’s up to us as a group to pull out of this. It’s not time to push the panic button.
“At this point, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a veteran, a rookie or a sophomore, you can’t play without discipline.”
The Stars had seven power plays to the Ducks’ three.
Turco looked unbeatable in goal, outshining Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The Ducks’ goalie, however, faced a string of two-on-ones in a game where Dallas’ defence outplayed Anaheim’s far more experienced blue-liners.
Meanwhile, the Ducks, trying to become the first team in 10 years to repeat as Cup champions, had a new message scrawled on the board in their locker room: “It’s a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.”