Zegras’ return can’t save Ducks from themselves

Kraken win 4-0, snapping eight-game losing streak; Ducks shutout for tenth time.

SEATTLE — One could make a compelling case that Trevor Zegras is the Anaheim Ducks’ most important player. The speed, the elusiveness, the creativity—like the kid or not, they change things on the ice.

So forgive the Ducks for hoping Zegras’ return to the ice Tuesday night after a 31-game absence might give the team some extra juice for its game against the Seattle Kraken, a team mired in an eight-game losing streak.

But the juice never juiced. Even the return of a dangerous offensive weapon like Zegras couldn’t save the Ducks’ from their propensity to beat themselves. Seattle won the game 4-0 at a raucous Climate Pledge Arena.

It was Anaheim’s ninth loss in their 10 games and their tenth time being shutout this season. Penalties and turnovers were, as always, instrumental in the game’s outcome. But those lapses seemed to be symptoms of a general lack of energy by the Ducks. Case in point: the Ducks were outshot in the first period, 12-4. They managed just 12 shots in the game.

Late in the first period, Ducks rookie defenseman Jackson LaCombe took a very necessary tripping penalty to prevent a clear Seattle breakaway opportunity. The resulting power play ended with Jordan Eberle’s 17th goal of the season and a 2-0 Kraken lead.

Then, less than four minutes into the second period, Anaheim was whistled for having too many men on the ice. Oliver Bjorkstrand ended that power play when a centering pass ricocheted off of Pavel Mintyukov’ stick and landed right on Bjorkstrand’s. He beat John Gibson and extended Seattle’s lead to 3-0.

Zegras’ return to the lineup had a clearly noticeable impact on the game, particularly early. He took six shots, a welcome sight for a team consistently outshot by opponents. His speed and incessant on-ice chatter appeared to energize his linemates and the team as a whole over his first several shifts. But that jolt was short-lived, as Anaheim’s deficiencies began to show through.

“You could tell they were just hungrier than we were,” Troy Terry told the Associated Press. “It’s. unacceptable to start the game like that. Whatever the reasons were, I just thought they kind of jumped out early and kind of dictated the game, which led us to taking too many penalties because they had the puck. Once you kind of get in that cycle, it’s hard to break out of.”

The diabolical mix of injuries and tradeable, expiring contracts at the trade deadline has hobbled the Ducks offense. While the team was able to generate some scoring chances, they were never quite able to finish them. Ten minutes of penalty kill time also appeared to prevent the Ducks from generating flow and momentum.

In a rare NHL scheduling anomaly, the same two teams will meet again in the same arena Thursday night. Same time, too: 7 p.m. PST.