LOS ANGELES, Calif. Once his playing days expire, there's a good career ahead in public relations for Ryan Getzlaf.
The Anaheim Ducks center, stifled by a drop in production and on pace for a career-low mark in goals that would fall short of his 14 rookie season tallies in 2005-06, offered as rosy of an assessment as could be provided after his team's 4-2 setback against the Los Angeles Kings Saturday night at Staples Center.
When asked if the team's lack of a margin for error over the last two months has begun to wear the team down, Getzlaf offered some prime spin.
"No, we're excited," Getzlaf answered, though the atmosphere in the locker room shortly after the narrow defeat clearly offered a different picture.
"We're excited to play every night and excited to get back in this thing, and working hard to get there. We lost the special teams battle tonight, and that was the difference in the hockey game."
As he spoke, roughly 15 stone-faced Ducks sat silently at their stalls, staring straight ahead as they contemplated the ramifications of a 1-3 week that served as a major emotional blow to the club's outside chance at making the playoffs.
Looking to become the first team in NHL history to erase a 20-point deficit before reaching the playoffs no team had erased more than a 12-point deficit since conference realignment prior to the 1993-94 season the Ducks pulled to within four points of a playoff spot after a 3-2 shootout win in Carolina on February 23, but have since been unsuccessful in closing the gap any further. With 16 games remaining, they're seven points behind eighth-place Dallas, which has a game in hand. Four teams separate them from the final playoff berth.
Anaheim's 18-6-4 record since January 4 has been an admirable achievement, but silver linings don't get teams into the playoffs.
"It's a tough one," Getzlaf said. "You know what, we're pretty disappointed in this locker room, mostly with our effort. We weren't as good as we needed to be to play tonight. They came out and played a strong game, and we didn't respond the way we needed to, especially our special teams."
As composed as Getzlaf has been all season long, Bruce Boudreau was as equally steamed Saturday. Venting frustration over several borderline calls assessed by referees Dan O'Rourke and Ian Walsh, including a questionable slashing penalty on Luca Sbisa as he defended Jeff Carter in a one-on-one rush into the Ducks zone, Anaheim's coach will likely be hearing from the NHL in regards to his harsh criticism of the way the game was called.
"Our special teams were horrible. We can't kill a penalty and we can't score a goal on the power play," Boudreau said.
"That being said, they were some of the worst calls that I've seen in a long time. In a game of this importance, we can't have officiating making calls like that. There were three penalties that weren't penalties I know of that we took. Granted, they scored and probably sour grapes that they scored, but those things can't happen. It's too important and there is too much at stake for everybody not coming to do their job, whether it's us guys or whether it's the other guys over there."
"If we are busting our ass all night long and playing our fifth game in seven nights, we needed better from them. I don't know what their schedule is, but if it's four nights in a row or what have you we can't have that. It's just bad calls and I haven't paid too much attention to whether the Kings deserved their calls, but I know the calls on Sbisa's slash, Bonino's interference, and Hagman's trip were not penalties; not even close."
O'Rourke, one half of Saturday's referee assignment, had previously asserted in an Anaheim-Ottawa game in January that Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson was a "diver", as reported by Ken Warren of Senators Extra.
The Ducks are going to have to forget about any perceived officiating injustice quickly, regrouping for a home game Monday against Edmonton before a three-game trip through St. Louis, Dallas and Colorado.
"This is a very tough time for us," defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky said. "We need more wins. It's hard to say something."
NOTES: Devante Smith-Pelly scored his first goal since December 8, a wristshot from the right wing that snuck past Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick. He returned to the lineup on February 21 after breaking a bone in his foot while blocking a shot at the World Junior Championships on December 26. The 19-year old has four goals and seven points in a physical, checking role for Anaheim and was named the game's third star in Anaheim home wins on February 26 against Chicago and March 2 against Calgary. Jonas Hiller made his franchise-record 25th consecutive start. He broke the team's consecutive starts record in Friday's 3-2 win over Calgary. The Ducks were 04 on the power play, while the Kings were 24. Anaheim fell to 1-2-2 against Los Angeles in this year's Freeway Faceoff season series. The teams meet for the final time this season on Friday, March 16 at Honda Center.