Unlike their opponents Sunday, the Ducks aren’t in the postseason hunt.
With just 59 points — seven games below .500 — the Ducks have nothing tangible to play for this season.
It’s a prideful locker room, though, one unaccustomed to this situation after qualifying for the playoffs each of the last six seasons.
With a 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon at Honda Center, the Ducks halted their five-game losing streak and dealt a blow to the Colorado Avalanche’s playoff hopes.
Jakob Silfverberg, whose five-year contract extension became official over the weekend, scored his team-leading 17th goal; Cam Fowler added another and John Gibson made 25 saves against one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL.
“It’s about creating habits and creating that winning atmosphere again, even if it means to take over into next season,” said the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf, who returned from a five-game absence due to an upper-body injury.
One of those skaters is Brendan Guhle, the 21-year-old defenseman acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at last week’s trade deadline. He recorded his first point with the Ducks with an assist on Silfverberg’s goal at 3:17 of the opening period.
Guhle pounced on a neutral-zone turnover and found Silfverberg, whose short-side snipe sent Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer’s Gatorade bottle lid airborne, his drink splashing all over the ice. The blue-liner led the Ducks in shots with four and received more than three minutes of power-play time.
“He’s a really good kid; very smart in the way he approaches the game,” said Fowler, who paired with Guhle. Fowler’s wrist shot careened its way through traffic for a power-play goal at 10:26 of the second period.
“He’s pretty savvy for a 21-year-old. There’s a lot of details in his game that I know I sure didn’t have at that age. I’m trying to pull him along as best as I can, he doesn’t really need much of my help.”
Derick Brassard finished a one-time pass from Carl Soderberg on the power-play to pull the Avalanche within one. The high-octane Avalanche offense (ranked ninth in the NHL at 3.26 goals per game) still had more than 16 minutes to tie, but the Ducks held firm.
Fowler credited the club’s ability to deny Avalanche stars Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon the “timing and space that they want.” Both first-line players were held off the scoresheet; each forward has registered 82 points this season.
It wasn’t all good news for the Ducks. Devin Shore, who has been playing second-line center, was helped off the ice midway through the second period after receiving a knee-on-knee hit from Ian Cole. The Colorado defenseman was docked with a five-minute major for kneeing along with a game misconduct.
Shore didn’t return; he’ll undergo an MRI on Monday, according to assistant coach Mark Morrison. The rest of team will practice Monday at Honda Center and prepare for Tuesday’s road game with the Arizona Coyotes.
“Everyone knows the situation we’re in, where we’re at in the standings,” Fowler said. “The important thing is we come to work every day and play for one another.”