Ducks 6, Nashville 3.

The Ducks played like a different team in Game 4 compared to Game 3. In part, they were.

Sheldon Brookbank, Kyle Palmieri and Brad Winchester came out of the lineup; and Andy Sutton, Andreas Lilja and Jarkko Ruutu went in — but the biggest difference in the 6-3 win seemed to be the Ducks’ resolve.

Goals by Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Brandon McMillan in the third period broke a 3-3 tie, and the series shifts back to Anaheim on Friday tied at two games apiece.

Goals by Cam Fowler and Saku Koivu staked the Ducks to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 5:14. Patric Hornqvist answered 34 seconds later for Nashville, and Joel Ward’s power-play goal at 5:44 of the second period tied the game at 2.

Teemu Selanne deflected a Getzlaf shot past Pekka Rinne with the Ducks on the power play at 11:41 of the second period to temporarily restore the one-goal lead. But Kevin Klein and Matt Halischuk caught the Anaheim defense napping, with Klein setting up Halischuk for the equalizer at 14:15.

A delay of game penalty to Nick Bonino with 31.5 seconds left in the second period carried over to the third period, and could have given the Predators the break they were looking for. Instead, Perry scored short-handed 1:17 into the third period to give the Ducks all the momentum they needed. Nashville put only three shots on Ray Emery (19 saves) in the entire third period.

The Ducks outshot Nashville 38-22 in the game, and Rinne wasn’t around to see the end of it. He was lifted for Anders Lindback after McMillan’s goal at 6:46 of the third period.

“We just felt that the way we played the other night, we needed a little bit more size on the back end,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We hadn’t played Sutton and Lilja in a while. We thought that some of our younger players — specifically Sbisa and Bonino … McMillan and Beleskey, those are all very young players — we just felt they would be more comfortable with a 6-foot-5 defenseman and another 6-foot-3, 220-pound defenseman on the back end.”

A few more notes and observations:
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Nashville 4, Ducks 1.

You can pick apart where the Ducks’ playoff opener went wrong: A Matt Beleskey penalty here, a Pekka Rinne save there, a missed assignment or two or three.

Corey Perry, always a man of few words, hit the nail on the head: “We just didn’t have it.”

As it turns out, the Ducks’ late-game magic is predicated on confidence. By the middle of the middle period they had none — confidence or magic — thanks to an outstanding performance by Rinne and the Predators’ disciplined ‘D’.

Even the 5-on-3 power play that preceded Teemu Selanne’s goal in the third period was a haphazard hodgepodge of starts and stops. Fortunately for the Ducks, he and Saku Koivu got it together in time to ruin the shutout.

But Rinne’s intimidation factor remained intact.

“We played really solid defensively and our strength is penalty killing,” said the 6-foot-5 goaltender, who finished with 27 saves. “We did a good job again tonight. We played big, we played physical in our own zone and tried to limit our turnovers. On the other hand, when they turned the puck over, we executed and scored some huge goals and got the momentum going for us. We’ll enjoy this game for a bit and try to get it done in the next game.”

Check out the game details, and a variety of reasons for the Ducks’ letdown from players and coaches, in tomorrow’s editions. Some notes and observations that won’t make the paper:
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Vancouver 3, Ducks 0.

The Canucks have that look about them.

Seeing as many (if not more) Canucks sweaters than Ducks sweaters in the stands at Honda Center is one thing — chalk that atmosphere up to a rare Saturday-Sunday Kings-Ducks doubleheader that allowed fans to come down from Vancouver for a weekend of hockey and (mostly) sunshine.

The best magic is taking place on the ice. The last two days have seen Vancouver beat the Kings and Ducks each at their own game. Sunday’s 3-0 win required only 16 shots on goal and a strong performance by backup goalie Cory Schneider. Following his first shutout of the season, Schneider has a better goals-against average (2.14 to 2.21) and save percentage (.928 to .925) than starter Roberto Luongo.

Two goals by third-line center Manny Malhotra off a pair of Ducks miscues, and a power-play goal by Daniel Sedin that went off Andreas Lilja’s stick, proved the Canucks are more than just a two-twin pony. They outmuscled the Kings in a 3-1 win Saturday. On Sunday they frustrated Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan into submission (Getzlaf put 11 shots on goal but converted none), and took their chances with everyone else while capitalizing on a couple mistakes by Lilja and Cam Fowler.

It’s a good strategy against a Ducks team that is still missing two-thirds of its second line. Jason Blake (hand) and Saku Koivu (groin) have now missed back-to-back games. The Ducks did well to gain two points against two teams ahead of them in the standings, Dallas and Detroit, in their last two games.

Stopping the Canucks right now seems to be getting harder with every game. Are they the best team the Ducks have seen this season?

“They’re definitely one of them,” Getzlaf said. “The standings will show you that before you get on the ice. It’s not a trick in this league to get to the top of the standings, it’s hard work and they’ve been doing it all year.”

A few more notes:
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Ducks lose a wild one, trade Mara to Montreal.

Alex Semin’s third goal of the game, with 1:47 left in the third period, sent the Ducks to a wild 7-6 loss to the Washington Capitals at Honda Center.

Easily lost in the 13-goal outburst was the fact that the Ducks squandered a golden opportunity to take over first place in the Pacific Division.

The Dallas Stars suffered their second loss in as many days, 4-2 to the Calgary Flames, creating a five-way logjam in the Western Conference standings. The Ducks (32-22-4) are mired in the middle with the fourth through eighth-place teams all tied at 68 points. The entire Pacific Division is separated by two points, from first-place Phoenix (30-19-9, 69 points) to fifth-place Los Angeles (32-22-3, 67 points).

Just easily overlooked was the postgame announcement of a trade.
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Ducks 5, Calgary 4, OT.

Cam Fowler’s goal with 18.6 seconds left in overtime allowed the Ducks to clinch a back-and-forth battle in a hostile environment.

Saku Koivu scored a pair of goals, Brandon McMillan scored short-handed, and Teemu Selanne’s power-play goal with 2:07 left in the third period sent the game to overtime tied at 4.

Curtis McElhinney got the start with a healthy Jonas Hiller serving as the backup. He got help from a post in the third period, a missed breakaway opportunity in overtime, and finished with 21 saves. Rene Bourque, Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla and Curtis Glencross scored the Flames’ goals.

Calgary lost for just the second time in its last 10 games and suffered the same fate as conference-leading Vancouver two days before. Anaheim can complete the Western Canada sweep Sunday in Edmonton – an easy one to overlook but also the most winnable game of an otherwise tough trip.

A few more notes: 
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Ducks 3, Colorado 0.

Corey Perry completed his second career hat trick with an empty-net goal with 17.3 seconds left, and Curtis McElhinney notched his second career shutout.

Both players accomplished the feat earlier this season – Perry’s first career hat trick came Dec. 12 against the Minnesota Wild, and McElhinney’s first shutout came Nov. 10 against the Islanders.

There were some notable firsts. It was the Ducks’ first win against the Avs this season (on their first try) and it was the first time an Anaheim player scored all three of his team’s goals in a winning effort. Perry punched in a power-play goal at 13:51 of the first period, the Ducks’ only power-play goal on six tries. That included a 1:29-long 5-on-3 shift spanning the first two periods.

Colorado couldn’t take any momentum from the kill, and Perry made them pay. He spun T.J. Galiardi around in his tracks before scoring an even-strength goal at 1:53 of the third period,
before completing the scoring into an empty net.

“Their best player was real good tonight,” head coach Joe Sacco lamented afterward.

McElhinney was good too. The former Colorado College standout made a pair of outstanding saves, and a lot of routine ones, en route to the 25-save shutout. Jonas Hiller was scratched due to fatigue and Timo Pielmeier served as the backup to McElhinney.

“Curtis played well back there and made some big saves in crucial times,” Perry said. “The puck was bouncing around a little bit tonight and they had some pressure on us. We had some big blocks and we made sure that we could try to help Curtis out.”

The Avalanche were shut out for the fourth time this season, and lost for the fifth time in their last six games. While Colorado has fallen out of the Western Conference’s top eight, the Ducks used the win to temporarily tie San Jose at 62 points, three behind first-place Dallas. The Stars are playing the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.

A few more notes:
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San Jose 4, Ducks 3.

The first 11 minutes, 15 seconds of hockey at Honda Center rendered the next 48:45 moot. Almost.

At least, it made for fairly easy writing on deadline. Seeing Jonas Hiller allow three goals in that early span, before heading to the bench, was a rare sight. Just as rare were the nature of the goals – each a little less excusable than the one before. Hiller said he didn’t see Jason Demers’ shot from just inside the blue line until it was in the back of the net. A few seconds later, Hiller was on the bench, and the Western Conference standings were guaranteed to be a gnarled mess.

The Sharks (27-19-6) and Ducks (28-21-4) each have 60 points now, cosmetically tied for fifth place in the standings but San Jose has the advantage of having one game in hand. Clearly, playing the Phoenix Coyotes the night before was a tremendous advantage, as the Sharks’ quick start was too much for Hiller and the Ducks.

“I think when they scored on the first shift it should have been a wake-up call,” said Bobby Ryan, who had one of the Ducks’ three goals. “We let them build off it. I don’t think you can discredit Jonas. He stood in there and some of the goals were tough to see, especially the third one. You don’t see it much.”

Cam Fowler and Joffrey Lupul also scored goals, with Lupul netting his first since Dec. 28. Curtis McElhinney made 17 saves – 10 more than Hiller – allowing only a power-play putback by Ryane Clowe at 15:39 of the second period.

More details in tomorrow’s editions. A few more notes:
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Parting thoughts from the All-Star Game.

I had some burning questions for Corey Perry and Cam Fowler after watching the two compete at the NHL’s All-Star weekend in Raleigh.

On Jan. 8, Fowler won the Ducks’ intrasquad speedskating competition in 13.945 seconds. The course looked the same, and the timing was just as digital, but there’s no way of knowing if we can make an apples-to-apples comparison to the times recorded by the All-Stars at Saturday’s fastest skater comptition. Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders won the event, posting a low time of 14.061 seconds.

If in fact Fowler’s time can be accurately compared to the past winners of the league’s fastest skater competitions, his 13.945 puts him in elite company. Among the seven who have recorded better times since 1992? Fowler’s landlord/mentor, Scott Niedermayer.

So why did Fowler compete in the hardest shot competition instead?
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Getzlaf’s back, and other notes from practice.

Ryan Getzlaf returned to practice — looking trim, but weighing the same, he insisted — for the first time since he went on injured reserve after suffering multiple nasal sinus fractures on Dec. 28. He skated on a line with usual fourth-liners Todd Marchant, George Parros, Kyle Chipchura and Aaron Voros — who was officially activated off IR today.

The occasion of seeing Getzlaf on the ice allowed a moment to put his injury into perspective. I tried, with limited success, to extract from him the potential severity of taking a puck between the eyebrows. Check out tomorrow’s editions for more on that.

Voros was the other big news. Because he gave the Ducks a total of 22 players on the active roster, there was only room for one player to come up from Syracuse. Dan Sexton got the call and Matt Beleskey, who had two goals and seven points in 11 January games, was left behind.

It’s worth noting that Voros was scratched from 20 of the Ducks’ 31 games before he went down with a fractured orbital bone, and his injury opened up ice time for youngsters like Beleskey, Sexton and Brandon McMillan — who skated as the top-line center again Monday. Voros could well find himself in the press box again Wednesday when the San Jose Sharks visit Honda Center.

The forward lines and defensive pairings remained the same. Corey Perry said his flight back from North Carolina touched down at 1 p.m. local time, giving him just enough time to make the 3 p.m. practice (but not enough time to unpack). Jonas Hiller and Cam Fowler were also on the ice, as was goaltending consultant Pete Peeters, wearing the full goalie pads.

Perry and Cam Fowler talked a bit about their All-Star Game experiences, but I’ll save that for the next blog.

One more tidbit that you never find in a newspaper (which reminds me why blogs were invented): Teemu Selanne said today’s practice, which ended around 4:30 p.m., reminded him of how it used to be when he was coming up because he was able to leave the rink with darkness creeping in outside. Winnipeg, I asked? Nope, Finland. “Back home,” he said.

Perry reigns in the shootout at skills competition (Video).

Consider the expectations raised for Corey Perry the next time he’s called upon in a shootout.

Perry was a perfect 3-for-3, including a goal against teammate Jonas Hiller on his first attempt, in the shootout challenge at the NHL’s SuperSkills competition Saturday. Perry outlasted Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis’ go-to 90-degree turn with a variety of moves – going top-shelf on Hiller, 5-hole on Marc-Andre Fleury and top-shelf again on Tim Thomas to win the competition.

Perry’s personal accomplishment also clinched victory for Team Eric Staal in the head-to-head points against Team Nicklas Lidstrom, 33-22. Perry would have been properly labeled an underdog going into the event – he’s only 1 for 6 in shootouts so far this season.

Perry had the most memorable day of the three Ducks, a day that included this set of moves in the breakaway challenge (won for the third straight year by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin):

Hiller had a quiet day. He wasn’t called upon until the second round of the shootout challenge, didn’t compete in the fastest skater competition (leaving that spectacle to Tim Thomas and Cam Ward), and wasn’t in the net against any of the breakaway shooters. Given Hiller’s relative lack of activity, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see Perry beat him on the first shot he saw.

Of the next 10 shots Hiller saw, only one got by – off the stick of Columbus’ Rick Nash.

Cam Fowler participated in the hardest shot challenge and recorded shots at 93.7 and 93.8 mph. It was the second-slowest shot among the 12 shooters (ahead of only Nash). Fowler also missed on his only shootout attempt, against Ward.

The All-Star Game is tomorrow at 1 p.m. (televised on Versus).