ANAHEIM, Calif. – It's fine to play rough and tough hockey until someone gets hurt. Thursday night, the Anaheim Ducks did both.
The style of play that was the Ducks' M.O. all the way to the Stanley Cup last year blew up in their face during the first game of their title defense, resulting in a 4-0 laugher in favor of the underdog Dallas Stars.
"Yeah, we want to be playing on the edge a little bit, yeah we want to finish our check and be physical, but we also have to be smart," Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "There's no excuse.
"We can't take penalties in the offensive zone. Penalties that prevent a goal are one thing, but penalties that are out of nowhere, we can't do that."
The comedy of bad judgment started early and continued often. The Ducks took undisciplined, stupid penalties to a new level in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal.
Third-line left wing Travis Moen was the first to get fitted for the dunce cap. He pursued Matt Niskanen into the corner and was fine with his timing on finishing a check just after the Dallas defenseman released the puck. But when Moen decided to slide his right elbow into Niskanen's left ear to in turn press firmly on the glass, the hosts had a problem.
"The penalty parade started after that," Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger said. "And they were able to capitalize on their power play."
"We had a decent enough of a start, but once we took the first penalty it seemed to change the whole momentum of the game," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.
No problem. Anaheim is no stranger to overcoming adversity. You don't win 16 of 21 games in a high-pressure playoff atmosphere without possessing some moxie.
Then Brian Sutherby decides to two-hand Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley to Irvine with his stick, another penalty taken behind the play in the offensive zone, and it was Loui Eriksson's turn to convert against a tired penalty kill 1:33 later.
"That's not where we want to be taking penalties," Pronger said. "In general their power play is pretty good and our penalty kill didn't do a good job, but we took some undisciplined penalties that we didn't need to.
"There's time you need to take penalties – to stop breakaways or whatever the case may be – those are penalties we're willing to take and we're going to kill off. It's the other penalties that seem to come back and bite you all the time," the defenseman added.
Oh, but we're not done.
` The intermission did little to adjust the team's attitude, and when Ryan Getzlaf elbowed Dallas defenseman Mattias Norstrom behind the play, he was sent off to feel shame. It hurt most when Jere Lehtinen converted with just seven seconds left in the advantage.
When veteran defenseman Mathieu Schneider waited all of 10 seconds to interfere with Stars forward Joel Lundqvist at center – at least the penalties were getting closer to their own net – Carlyle was caught on the tube snapping "Wake up!" to his bench.
Defenseman Francois Beauchemin must have hit the snooze button. His high-stick of Dallas forward Niklas Hagman was converted by the Stars into their fourth power-play goal of the game when Brenden Morrow had a gaping net in which to deposit Mike Ribeiro's patient feed.
Four power-play goals for the Stars. Not bad for openers.
"Unless we want to get run out of the building our power play is going to have to be good," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said.
This one didn't come back to haunt the Ducks, but it was a beauty anyway. Defenseman Kent Huskins broke his stick in half, but still took a swing at the puck with what little lumber he had left and earned the rare minor for playing with a broken stick 10 seconds before the second intermission.
The gaffe capped a brutal opening 40 minutes and invited a smattering of boos from the sellout crowd, and after misdirecting their derision toward the officials earlier, these cat calls were definitely intended for their men in black.
"It is mental, it's about being alert and aware of what is at stake," Pronger said of rediscovering the art of disciplined hockey. "I don't think it's any secret coming into this series we need to stay out of the box. Today we did a terrible job at it."
Carlyle felt like his naughty team was getting better with that department, despite the fact Anaheim led the league in two telling categories – most penalty minutes (1,481) and most times short-handed (408).
"It's always at the top of a coach's list," Carlyle said of discipline. "It's been talked about, talked about, talked about. And we've been pretty good for the last month and a half and this was a night when we weren't."