In a season filled with heartbreaking losses, the Ducks delivered their latest chapter Sunday.
Pontus Aberg trudged over to the penalty box after he was called for slashing Nathan MacKinnon. There were just 14.7 seconds remaining in overtime, but that was all the vaunted Colorado Avalanche power play needed.
With 1.3 seconds left, NHL-points leader Mikko Rantanen ripped a one-timer past Ryan Miller to lead the Avalanche to a 4-3 victory over the Ducks before 16,502 at Honda Center.
The Ducks performed well against a high-powered offense once again, but the effort wasn’t enough. Nothing has been enough for this squad that has just three wins in its last 15 outings.
“It’s really frustrating, you know, but again, it’s on us,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We need to find ways to get more points. That’s what it’s all about. We want to stay with the pack. … When things go against you you’ve gotta take it and then take the positives out of it.”
For a struggling team searching for a silver lining, the Ducks can find solace in collecting one point in consecutive games for just the fourth time this season. Somehow, they sit three points behind the Avalanche for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
They also grabbed the game’s first goal for the fourth time over that 15-game stretch. The team did so without starting goalie John Gibson, who was sidelined by the flu.
There are plenty more negative aspects to be found in Sunday’s outing. The Ducks failed to hold a 3-1 lead. The team’s seventh-ranked penalty kill, one of the lone bright spots, allowed the Avalanche to convert on both opportunities.
Carlyle acknowledged the coverage was “loose” on the deciding goal. Adam Henrique, Brandon Montour and Josh Manson were on the ice.
Unsurprisingly, the Avalanche’s top line produced like they’ve done all season. Both Rantanen (two assists) and MVP-runner up Nathan MacKinnon (two goals) delivered three-point performances.
Along with Gabriel Landeskog, that unit leads the NHL’s second-ranked offense; the elite level of speed and skill the trio possesses surely resembles what the Ducks are searching for in their own locker room as they hope to evolve.
The Ducks tried to contain them, but matters were made more challenging with four rookie defensemen in the lineup (Hampus Lindholm was a late scratch with a lower-body injury.)
“(Manson) and I were talking and he said ‘I’m the veteran back there’ in OT and I’m second,” Montour said with a laugh. He’s 24; Manson is 27. “It’s one of those things that’s funny but obviously you’d like to have those guys back.”
Montour has been quiet on the offensive side after breaking out last season, but his performance Sunday brings hope. He scored the game’s first goal 4:45 into the first period with a wrap-around move; the blue-liner added assists on goals by Ryan Getzlaf and Ondrej Kase.
The newly formed top unit – yes, another different combination on Line 1 – featured Ryan Getzlaf, Ondrej Kase and Rickard Rakell; they hummed all night in another positive development.