ANAHEIM -- With the Western Conference playoff race turning toward home and four points still separating fourth through 10th place, the Ducks picked a poor time to become philanthropic with the puck.
Anaheim committed a pair of costly turnovers that led to two ill-timed goals in a 5-2 loss Sunday evening against the Phoenix Coyotes at Honda Center. And when the Ducks weren’t giving up goals off miscues, they were the victims of a few bad breaks.
“They had some funny bounces and things went their way,” said Ducks forward Todd Marchant. “We can’t get down on this. It’s like being in a playoff series and losing Game 1. You have to learn from it, forget about it, move on and be ready for Game 2.”
That would be Wednesday against the visiting St. Louis Blues, one of the few teams in the West just playing for pride.
The Ducks could find themselves in that position real soon if they don’t clean up their puck management.
After taking a 1-0 lead on a beautiful drive to the net by Bobby Ryan, who weaved through three Phoenix defenders before sliding a pass to Corey Perry for an easy tap-in goal 3 minutes 46 seconds into the game, the Ducks gave up a tying goal just under two minutes later.
Ducks defenseman Andreas Lilja was uncontested as he carried the puck out of his defensive zone, but he lost possession just before he reached the blue line. Phoenix left wing Taylor Pyatt retrieved the puck and took a few strides toward Anaheim goalie Dan Ellis before beating him with a shot over his left shoulder.
Shortly after killing a holding penalty on Perry later in the opening period, Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman apparently cracked the shaft on his stick as he fought for possession in the neutral zone. Though his stick was still in one piece, Lydman threw it to the ice, leaving him to defend Lauri Korpikoski without his best defensive tool.
Korpikoski weaved back and forth at the top of the left face-off circle before letting go of a blast that beat Ellis for a 2-1 lead with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the opening period.
“I went to put the puck back deep in their zone and [the shaft] broke,” said Lydman, who came in leading the league with a plus-30 rating. “You’re just trying to stay between the guy and the goal. It happens.”
The Ducks managed to tie the score late in the second period on Perry’s second goal of the game, but again the Coyotes answered 61 seconds later when Marchant whiffed on a swipe of the puck as it came off the boards in his defensive zone. Korpikoski was again in the right place to take advantage and he beat Ellis to regain the lead for good, 3-2.
“We always talk about how important those shifts are after goals are scored,” Marchant said. “I was a victim of one of them. The puck came off the glass funny and I couldn’t get it settled down and [Korpikoski] poked it by me and made a nice move. It just seemed like any kind of mistake that we did make, it ended up costing us.”
Ellis became the sacrificial lamb after allowing four goals on 21 shots. He was replaced in the third period by Ray Emery, who made his season debut six weeks after the Ducks signed him as free agent.
Emery stopped nine shots before the Ducks pulled him with 3 1/2 minutes remaining for a two-man advantage. The Ducks put a few shots on goal against former Anaheim goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, but the Coyotes scored into the empty net with 41 seconds left.