ANAHEIM -- Even a mask probably wouldn’t have hid the frustration overflowing inside Jonas Hiller.
The Anaheim goalkeeper was at the mercy of another spotty effort by his defense Sunday night, and he held little back after the Ducks lost for the 18th time in the last 21 games, 5-3, against the visiting Minnesota Wild at Honda Center.
“You can see why we’re not winning,” said Hiller, the only Western Conference goalie to make an All-Star team last season. “Guys always seem to get inside, walk through two guys and suddenly get a 2-on-1 out of nothing. … Even though we have guys back [on defense], it seems like we’re just too cute. I don’t know if we think we’re the best team out there.”
Hiller was speaking in generalities but was also disturbed with the ease in which the Wild scored the winning goal with 5 ½ minutes remaining. Cal Clutterbuck brought the puck down the right wall with Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman on his hip. He found enough room to get off a centering pass toward Nick Johnson, who was crashing the crease with Luca Sbisa in pursuit. Johnson used his momentum to redirect the puck off a skate and past Hiller for a 4-3 lead.
"I should have stayed inside of him, kept him behind me and not let him go to the net like that," said the 21-year-old Sbisa. "It wasn’t the best play on my side, but I have to learn from that and it won’t happen again."
Especially frustrating, the Wild don't exactly perform well in high-scoring games. They came in 26th in the league in scoring and produced five goals in just one other game this season.
But this was against the Ducks, who have allowed at least four goals in seven of the last eight, all losses. The organization took the drastic step of firing coach Randy Carlyle after a rare victory last week and bringing in Bruce Boudreau, who's quickly learning that the Ducks won’t be an easy fix.
“We have to play 60 minutes,” he said. “We played about 12 good minutes in the first period, then we stopped playing. The second period we just stood around and watched and felt a little bit sorry for ourselves.”
The Ducks blew a 3-0 lead in Boudreau’s debut Friday, eventually losing to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers in overtime, 4-3. They took a 2-0 lead in the first period against Minnesota, gave up their fourth power-play goal in two games at the end of the period and two more unanswered goals in the second.
From the 6:50 mark of the opening period until the end of the second, the Ducks were outshot, 29-6.
“We gave up two shots in the first 10 minutes because we were working hard, everybody was fine, and then we suddenly relaxed and the next thing they have 30 shots by the end of the second,” Hiller said. “I don’t think that’s the way you win a hockey game.”
So the Ducks will get together for practice again Monday, and look for solutions to the biggest crisis in franchise history. They won’t have much time to find a fix, as the rival Kings are scheduled to visit Tuesday night.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, let’s face it,” Boudreau said.
The question is, does Anaheim still have the tools?