The Ducks have a comfortable 12-point division lead over the second-place San Jose Sharks and don’t have to play them again this regular season.
But this was not a clean getaway, as the Sharks sent the visitors packing from SAP Center on Thursday night with nagging thoughts of what could become a troubling postseason matchup.
Not only has San Jose beaten Anaheim in four of five meetings this season, it routed the visitors in the farewell game, 6-3, hammering backup goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with five goals over a second-period span of 13 minutes 52 seconds.
“They scored a goal after we stopped a power play, then they scored again,” Bryzgalov said of a shot deflected past him low off Patrick Marleau’s stick.
Then, Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen worked to get San Jose’s Matt Nieto away from rebound position, but wound up screening Bryzgalov, allowing a Matt Irwin goal.
“There was not enough time for me to find … where’s the guy with the puck?” Bryzgalov said. “And he just put it top corner.
“When you’re not playing a lot, you want to go out there and play a great game. When you get results like that, it’s really frustrating.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said the defeat “was on 20 guys,” lamenting too many odd-man rushes at Bryzgalov, who’ll need to improve his performance rapidly with Anaheim staring at 16 games in 29 days beginning Tuesday.
Boudreau said the 34-year-old free-agent pickup is not in immediate danger of losing the backup job to minor leaguer John Gibson.
“They must’ve had 10 odd-man rushes in the second period,” Boudreau said. “You can’t lay it all on the goalie. You got a good team getting great looks, they’re going to go in. We didn’t play very well in front of him.”
The blitz started on Barclay Goodrow’s blast that went underneath Bryzgalov 2:15 into the second, and ended with a short-handed goal when Brenden Dillon centered a pass in front of the goalie and a diving Ducks forward Matt Beleskey accidentally knocked the puck (and himself) into the net instead of pushing it aside.
That was enough for Boudreau, who replaced Bryzgalov with Frederik Andersen, who was trying to get some rest with a Friday home game looming against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It’s never solely on the goalie,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. “It was a collective effort. He didn’t play as good as he wanted to, and we obviously did nothing to help him out. … The wheels fell off.”
The defensive strides the Ducks (32-11-6) showed while building a six-game winning streak vanished, especially when San Jose’s James Sheppard sprinted by everyone in white, black and orange and simply beat the veteran goalie.
Beleskey’s 19th goal and a late-third period goal by Ducks forward Patrick Maroon — his fourth in five games — made the outcome look better than it was.
Cogliano said San Jose’s treatment of the Ducks this season “is not ideal” as Anaheim moves toward its intended destination.
“A lot of things have got to happen before that happens and we’ll worry about that when we get to that,” Boudreau said of the postseason. “They obviously have a lot of confidence when they play us.”
DUCKS VS. CHICAGO
When: 7 PST Saturday.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: AM 830.
Etc.: After splitting the first two meetings with the Ducks, the Blackhawks return to Honda Center as the league’s second-ranked penalty-killing team. Forward Patrick Kane has 23 goals.