Ducks stumble in 5-2 loss to Phoenix Coyotes
In a playoff scramble so tight that the slightest stumble can turn into a major setback, the Ducks on Sunday made too many missteps on defense and in goal to expect to win.
Goaltender Dan Ellis’ sub-par performance led Coach Randy Carlyle to bring Ray Emery off the bench and into the nets for Emery's first NHL appearance since Feb. 1, 2010, perhaps in hopes the change would jar the Ducks out of their lethargic state. But the move didn’t work, and the Ducks fell to the Phoenix Coyotes, 5-2, before an announced crowd of 14,326 at Honda Center.
Had the Ducks won in regulation, they would have ranked seventh in the West. If they’d won in overtime or by a shootout they would have ranked eighth. Even a loss in overtime or shootout would have moved them up to ninth.
Losing in regulation left them 10th, two points behind eighth-place Calgary. The Ducks do have two games in hand but they can hardly be sure of winning those given Ellis’ struggles Sunday and the indefinite absence of all-star goaltender Jonas Hiller, who is still battling a case of vertigo. Hiller has been skating lightly but said last week he's still not feeling right and there is no timetable for his return.
Emery faced nine shots in the third period and didn't allow a goal, though he got some help when a shot that beat him was swept off the goal line by Lubomir Visnovsky. Shane Doan scored into an empty net for the Coyotes' final goal.
Corey Perry scored twice for the Ducks to move to third among NHL goal scorers, with 36.
The Coyotes matched the Kings with 83 points but have played one more game than the Kings. That leaves them fifth and the Kings fourth.
Perry redirected a pass from Bobby Ryan past Ilya Bryzgalov for an early lead, but the Coyotes didn’t trail for long. After defenseman Andreas Lilja turned the puck over just outside his own blue line Coyotes winger Taylor Pyatt pounced on it and skated up the right side before whipping a shot past Ellis, who had come out to the edge of the semicircle in front of the net. The goal, at 5:44, was unassisted.
The Coyotes took a 2-1 lead at 17:33 after team captain Doan made a fine effort to capture the puck in his own zone. Ryan Getzlaf hesitated while deciding whether to stay in the zone or go back on defense and Toni Lydman had to drop his broken stick, leaving the Ducks at a disadvantage. Doan connected on a pass to Lauri Korpikoski, who made a nice move around Lydman and fired a shot from the top of the left circle, beating Ellis to the short side. The puck appeared to get a piece of Ellis’ blocker but the shot seemed stoppable.
The Ducks pulled even during a power play late in the second period but the Coyotes regained the lead merely 61 seconds later and added to it before the period ended, taking a 4-2 lead into the second intermission.
Given a power play after the Coyotes were caught with too many men on the ice, the Ducks scored at 15:46. Visnovsky, stationed along the right-wing boards, passed the puck back toward the blue line for Cam Fowler. The rookie’s shot was deflected by Perry, who had his back to the net.
Phoenix took a 3-2 lead at 16:47. Ducks center Todd Marchant fanned on a clearing pass and the puck was snared by Korpikoski. The opportunistic winger cut across the slot, leaned past Visnovsky and slipped the puck between Ellis’ pads.
Marchant, perhaps angry at his mistake, took a high-sticking penalty at 17:14 and the Coyotes scored a few seconds after their power play ended. A one-timer by David Schlemko from the left circle got past Ellis at 19:17 to put the Ducks in a deep hole they couldn’t escape.
Bryzgalov, a former Duck, stopped 36 shots as the teams split their season series 3-3. Bryzgalov was excellent in the third period, especially when the Ducks pulled Emery for an extra skater and peppered him in the final minutes.
Check back later for more at www.latimes.com/sports
Photo: Ducks goaltender Dan Ellis stops a shot attempt by Coyotes center Andrew Ebbett in the first period Sunday at the Honda Center. Credit: Lori Shepler / Associated Press