ANAHEIM — Wednesday was a mixture of the future and a stark reminder of the present for the Ducks.
The day started with an announcement from the NHL that its draft lottery will be held on May 8 at 4 p.m. (PT) and ended with the New York Islanders beating the Ducks, 6-3, at Honda Center as the Islanders scored five straight goals, including three in the third period.
Ladies and gentlemen, start planning your draft watch parties.
Potentially, the proceedings could greatly impact the future of the franchise. The draft is said to be exceptionally deep in 2023 but for now, most of the talk revolves around the hopes and dreams of drafting the consensus No. 1 pick Connor Bedard. Currently, five points separate the bottom four teams – the Ducks (29th), Chicago (30th), San Jose (31st) and Columbus (32nd).
The unsettling news for fans is that the draft lottery is a little later than usual, meaning there are 25 days between the Ducks’ final game of the season (against the Kings) and the draft lottery. Twenty-five days of hearing (and reading) about Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson.
Now about the present …
The Ducks were outscored 13-4 in their two-game season series against the Islanders. The first game against the Islanders – back on Oct. 15 – was a messy 7-1 loss. That night, the No. 3 defense pairing – Robin Salo and Scott Mayfield – lit up the Ducks with a combined four goals.
On Wednesday, it was equally messy as the Ducks regressed defensively and lost for the fourth time in five games despite earning a point in eight of their previous nine games. This time, it was the Islanders’ second line doing almost all of the damage. Leading the way was right wing and former Duck Kyle Palmieri, who had a four-point night, scoring once and adding three assists. Center Brock Nelson scored twice and forward Pierre Engvall scored once and added an assist.
“We’ve taken some really great strides,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “But tonight we took a step backwards. When we played against Calgary and even the game against Nashville, we played in behind their D.
“And tonight we decided that we were just going to skate through them. And we turned the puck over and we turned it over again and again. We just couldn’t come out of it.”
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored twice for the Ducks – once in the first period and once in the third – and the Ducks’ other goal came from Max Jones 25 seconds after the opening faceoff. Defenseman Cam Fowler assisted on the Jones goal, which was his 33rd assist and 42nd point of the season, tying a single season career high in assists and points. John Gibson stopped 27 shots for the Ducks.
The Ducks actually led 2-1 in the first period before the Islanders got on track in the second and blew the game open in the third.
“They’re a pretty similar team to Nashville,” Shattenkirk said. “They forecheck hard. They’re relentless on the puck. We just didn’t pay attention to those last final details, executing our passes. Teams like that almost force you to be letter perfect.
“Tough to take a couple steps back tonight after we were moving in the right direction. But we’ll see now what we’re made of. It’s a good opportunity to see how we’ve grown and if we can put it behind us and move right on.”
The highlight for the hosts on an otherwise desultory night was a between-the legs-pass from Trevor Zegras to set up Shatttenkirk’s first goal, just the latest example of Zegras’ formidable wizardry.
Said Jones, smiling: “Great pass. Typical 2 on 1 and he’s got to throw a little flash in it.”
Trevor Zegras, the magician #FlyTogether pic.twitter.com/IQROsI0oY8
— Alex Micheletti (@AlexMicheletti) March 16, 2023
“As flashy as it looks, it really was a clever play,” Shattenkirk said. “Initially, he (Zegras) gets that puck and their defenseman had a really good stick in the passing lane. He makes that play and creates an opportunity for him to get to the net and maybe take it himself.
“The D-man has to make a decision at that point. I know, being on the other side of that, you have to let the goalie have him or you take him. Trevor recognized that and exploited him. I just tried to stay ready to shoot and ready for the pass at all costs. It was a special play for sure.”
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