DALLAS - The Anaheim Ducks have lost back-to-back games, lost all of the momentum in this series and their starting goalie might have lost his confidence.
And, believe it or not, that doesn’t even top their list of worries.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was a surprise scratch for Wednesday’s Game 4 at American Airlines Center due to an upper-body injury, and his presence was certainly missed as the Dallas Stars scored four unanswered goals on rookie Frederik Andersen to cruise to a 4-2 triumph and even up this Western Conference series at two wins apiece.
“It’s not an easy thing when you lose a guy like (Getzlaf) who does everything for us,” said Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler.
“He’s the leader of the team, but I think we’ve shown before that we can play without him and without a full lineup. We should be able to do that,” Andersen added. “Obviously, take your best player off of any team, that’s tough, but nothing we shouldn’t be able to handle.”
After the Stars held serve with two wins on home ice, this series now shifts back to Honda Center in Anaheim for Friday’s Game 5, and the big question is whether Getzlaf will be good to go for that crucial clash. He is considered day-to-day.
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau was tight-lipped about the specifics of the injury, only saying that Getzlaf had aggravated an upper-body issue in Game 3. He wouldn’t comment on whether it was related to the facial injury his captain suffered after being struck by a slapshot in the series opener.
After Andersen surrendered four goals on 24 shots in Wednesday’s loss, Boudreau was also non-committal about whether the Ducks would stick with the rookie puck-stopper from Denmark or give Jonas Hiller another shot at the starting gig in what, with the way the Stars having been playing in their own barn, should be considered a must-win game.
“We’re confident with whoever we put in the pipes,” Fowler said. “Freddie has done a great job for us this year and so has Jonas. I think we could have done a better job around Freddie. He’s battled and he’s competed and this is his first time in NHL playoffs, so you’re going to have your ups and downs, but we’re behind those guys 100%.”
Wednesday wasn’t the most spectacular outing of Andersen’s career, although only the Stars’ second goal — a short-side snipe by left-winger Vernon Fiddler — was a real softie.
Thanks to strikes by bruising blueliner Bryan Allen and broad-shouldered winger Patrick Maroon, the Ducks owned a 2-0 lead after the opening period of Game 4.
Not an ideal start for the home side, but it was all Stars after that.
Just 27 seconds after the flood, captain Jamie Benn won a faceoff, waltzed over the blueline and fired a wrist shot over Andersen’s blocker and under the cross-bar. About six minutes later, Fiddler squeezed a shot inside the post to tie it.
Stars centre Cody Eakin scored the eventual game-winner at the 6:22 mark of the third, breezing by a flat-footed rookie Rickard Rakell — Getzlaf’s replacement at centre — in the neutral zone and calling his own number on a two-on-one.
Just 82 seconds later, Fiddler flipped a nifty backhand pass into the slot and defenceman Alex Goligoski finished it off from there, sending Andersen to the showers and sending the Ducks back to Orange County with yet another question to answer.
The only good news is they still have home-ice advantage.
This series took a turn toward nasty when Stars pest Antoine Roussel jabbed Getzlaf in the jaw in Game 3, and it’s no surprise Wednesday was another scrappy affair that ended with a smattering of face-washes and fisticuffs.
Getzlaf’s pal, Corey Perry, dropped the mitts with Roussel, while Jordie Benn rushed to the defence of his kid brother, Jamie, as Allen tried to pick a fight at the buzzer.
“It was fun for everybody, I think,” said Stars head coach Lindy Ruff. “Now, we feel like we’ve got a playoff series.”
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