ELMONT, N.Y. — There are going to be nights like this – for every NHL team in every NHL season – where everything that can go wrong does.
Only problem for the Ducks is, they didn’t anticipate it would happen in Game 2 of the 2022-23 season.
Fresh off a dramatic comeback in the season opener, the Ducks fell flat on their collective faces against the New York Islanders, losing 7-1 on Saturday night at UBS Arena. Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin didn’t have much work, facing 23 shots. He made the first 17 saves before the Ducks’ Troy Terry ended his shutout bid early in the third period, at 1:29.
Terry has three goals in two games this season, picking right up from where he left off last season with his 37-goal campaign. He took a shot off his foot in the opening period and briefly left the game, another example of the Ducks’ (mis)fortunes on Saturday night.
“I feel like it was nowhere near our best,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. “Even in the first. It was 2-0, but they seemed to have control of the play and we seemed to be on our heels most of the night. We kept fighting but obviously it wasn’t good enough. Sixty minutes, I just don’t think was anywhere near where we need to be to win hockey games.”
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Defenseman Scott Mayfield had the first two-goal game of his career for the Islanders, and, in fact, five of the Islanders’ seven goals came from the back end. Forward Anders Lee had three assists. It was 5-0 at the end of two periods; and the score accurately reflected the play. The Islanders looked like a two-years-ago version of themselves, when they made it to the Stanley Cup semifinals, poised and experienced. By contrast, the Ducks looked like what they are – a team in transition, trying to fold new personnel and young players into a team in transition.
Some nights, the young stars shine brightly. Other times, they struggle. With all their experience, and the home crowd on their side, the Islanders took full advantage.
Ducks coach Dallas Eakins gave John Gibson a mercy pull after two periods. Anthony Stolarz came in for the start of the third and stopped nine of 11 shots.
“It’s embarrassing for everyone,” Eakins said. “This is where you’ve got to get a little bit of soul searching. It should hurt like hell through tonight. The ‘but’ is tomorrow morning when we get up we’ve got to look at our mistakes and do our best to correct them.
“And leave this game here. It’s as simple as that.”
Again, the game could have been even more one-sided if not for Gibson.
“He was great,” Fowler said. “He battled for us, kept us in the game. We have to do a better job of taking away that shot volume, so that he’s not under such duress throughout the game. He continues to do great things and play well for us and we have to do a much better job in front of him.”
Said Eakins: “Gibby played unbelievable in the first game and tonight with us turning it into a track meet, it started turning into odd-man rush after odd-man rush. And I certainly wasn’t going to have any more of that for John going into the third. We have an excellent goaltender, a world-class goaltender. But we can’t just rely on him to do it all himself.
“We’ve got lots of guys that can score here and make plays but you can’t win in this league unless you’re willing to play good, layered defense.”
The Ducks will get a chance to regroup with practice Sunday, again in Newark, N.J., before taking on the New York Rangers on Monday evening, the second game of a five-game road trip. And they’ll need to be far better against a talented Rangers team.