ANAHEIM, Calif. – A seven-game losing streak for the Ducks was extended to eight games on Thursday night after they failed to overcome a sloppy first period against the Washington Capitals.
Anaheim was down early after Anthony Mantha gave the visitors the lead just 90 seconds into the game, but Tristan Luneau equalized 22 seconds later. It was the first NHL goal for Luneau, who followed up his initial blocked attempt and shot into an essentially wide open net. The Ducks would take the lead just six minutes later when former Capital Brett Leason followed up on a rebound chance after Leo Carlsson undressed Capitals forward and former Duck Sonny Milano on a drive to the net.
“(Luneau) was terrific,” said Ducks head coach Greg Cronin. “You can see how dynamic he is offensively and how confident he is with the puck. He doesn’t look for safe plays. If they’re there, he’ll use the safe outlet, but when he has open ice and he has an opportunity to create a scoring chance, he does. It’s a nice weapon to have back there. You think about it, he’s a 19-year-old kid and he’s just getting better and better each game.”
But the star of the show was Tom Wilson, whose third goal of the game ended up being the game-winner for the Capitals. Wilson’s first goal came off a blocked shot by Radko Gudas on a Washington power play while his second came on a breakaway attempt after he stripped the puck off of Mason McTavish. The Ducks got goals from Brock McGinn and Frank Vatrano in the third to draw within one, but it was too little, too late.
“It felt nice to get one in the net and hopefully they’ll continue to come here,” said McGinn, who has drawn in for the last four games after being a healthy scratch. The winger was on the fourth line with Sam Carrick and Brett Leason, with their line combining for three points tonight.
“Our line in general, I think we just try and play with speed,” said McGinn. “I think we try and read off of each other. When we get in on pucks and create space for each other, we can get (pucks) back and we’ve just got to keep getting them to the net.”
“I think we were just keeping it simple,” said Leason. “We were just getting the puck into open ice, (McGinn) was flying today and was able to get to the puck first a lot. I think just having that middle lane drive, throwing pucks on net and getting some chances that we capitalized on.”
“They just keep it simple,” echoed Cronin. “They hunt pucks down and they’ve developed an identity where they get it back and they keep it in the offensive zone. They were a catalyst tonight for us offensively.”
Penalties and turnovers were once again common themes for Anaheim in tonight’s defeat, which clearly frustrated Cronin and left him at a loss for words.
“You can’t expect to win games––I don’t care if it’s 2-1 or 5-4––taking the number of penalties we take at the time of the game that we take them. It’s unacceptable, quite frankly. I don’t know what the solution is but they’ve got to figure it out on their own. Until we stop doing that, we don’t have a chance at winning games. You just can’t keep taking hooking and holding penalties.”
Two of Washington’s five goals came on the power play, which ended up being the difference maker. The Capitals entered tonight’s game with the worst power play percentage in the league (5.7) while Anaheim entered tonight with the most minor penalties in the league (116). The Ducks added eight to that total tonight.
“At the end of the day, we can’t keep taking penalties,” said Cronin. “We took four penalties in the third period. That’s absurd. Two nights ago (in Vancouver), we take one when we’re pressing at the end of the game. Most of them are these lazy penalties where guys’ sticks are right up into (the opposing player’s) hands and they’re easy to call. I told them (after the game tonight): ‘I don’t know what else to say to you, we keep doing it, it’s called insanity’.”