ANAHEIM — The Ducks have been in this position before. Maybe not this early in the playoffs, but they’ve certainly had to scramble back after an embarrassing postseason performance.
The Ducks lost the opening game of the Western Conference quarterfinals Wednesday night against the visiting Nashville Predators, a frustrating 4-1 defeat before an equally impatient sold-out crowd at Honda Center.
Four years ago during their magical run to the Stanley Cup title, the Ducks lost the opening game of the Western Conference finals, 2-1, against the Detroit Red Wings. Four days later they were flattened at home, 5-0, to fall behind in the series, 2-1.
Those losses became footnotes after Anaheim won the title three weeks later.
“It’s not all doom and gloom here,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Ducks will have two days to regroup for Game 2 back at Honda Center on Friday. In the meantime, they need to figure out a way to get the puck past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who was perfect except for a two-man advantage goal by the Ducks with a little more than eight minutes remaining.
By then it was over.
“We just didn’t have it,” said Corey Perry, who was held without a point for only the second time in the last 13 games. “We weren’t on our game and weren’t executing. ... You don’t expect to have a game like this, but that is why there are seven games in a series. You come out, win the next one and it’s all tied up again.”
Just like four years ago. Behind a goal and two assists from Teemu Selanne, the Ducks bounced back in Game 4 to win, 5-3, and didn’t lose to the Red Wings again.
“You're going to win and lose in the playoffs,” said Ryan Getzlaf, another member of the 2007 championship team. “Every game is going to be a battle. We know we’re in for a long series. Our execution level definitely has to go up for the next game.”
Carlyle said he thought the Ducks played their type of game until midway through the second period. The Predators scored twice in the final five minutes of the period and again in the opening minute of the third to take a 4-0 lead.
“We started to play as individuals,” Carlyle said. “We got frustrated with our lack of execution. They did a very good job of getting inside and making it very difficult to get to the net. The pucks bounced away versus bouncing for us. I don’t think you can say we were happy with too many aspect of our game.”
Carlyle decided early on to move Bobby Ryan off the top line with Perry and Getzlaf, hoping to get him away from the standout defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, but that just led to break downs in other areas.
“We had our chances to play against other people, but what happened was we weren’t very good in the face-off circle,” Carlyle said. “When you lose the face off, the other team has the opportunity to execute.”
The Ducks will have at least three more chances to get it right. If not, they could be watching the rest of the playoffs from their living rooms.