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Hockey

Ducks stay close but can’t solve Connor Hellebuyck in loss to Jets

Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer, right, reacts as Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor celebrates center Mark Scheifele’s goal during the first period on Wednesday.

With precious few games remaining, every one is a must-win for the Ducks.

Even before Wednesday night’s 3-0 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the team’s chances of making the playoffs were slim. After the game, the optimism and confidence that came from winning six of the previous nine games had turned to frustration and desperation.

“Of course you want rebounds to land on your stick, but that’s the way it goes,” Ducks defenseman Josh Manson said. “It’s a testament to their defense, the way they were boxing in front of the net and maybe their goalie was controlling his rebounds. We’re in the game all the way. It was 1-0 in the first period. We gave up two late ones, but the effort was there.”

With eight seconds left in Corey Perry’s high-sticking minor, center Mark Scheifele jammed a rebound past goalie John Gibson to put the Jets ahead 1-0 at 15:56 of the first period.

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Kyle Connor doubled the lead 4:25 into the third period when he redirected a shot from the point by Tyler Myers through Gibson for his 29th goal of the season. Less than three minutes later, Nikolaj Ehlers made it 3-0 on a snap shot from a seemingly impossible angle that deflected off Gibson and inside the post.

The Ducks had 11 shots on goal in the second period and had several point-blank chances, but couldn’t score on Connor Hellebuyck, who improved to 5-0-1 in six starts against Anaheim and stopped 29 shots to record his first shutout of the season.

“He was good, credit to him,” Ducks assistant coach Marty Wilford said of Hellebuyck. “We always say we’d like to to stay in front of him a little more to create a second chance. For sure it’s frustrating ... but again it’s tough, they tighten up when you chase it in. Unfortunately, it didn’t end the way we wanted it.”

Winnipeg spent nearly 10 minutes with an extra skater over the first two periods.

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“We had our chances and if we convert one or two of those it’s a different game, but at the end of the night we took way too many penalties,” said Ducks left winger Jakob Silfverberg, who has goals in four of his last six games and points in eight of his last 10. “It’s tough killing a lot of penalties. It wears down the guys and it’s tough to get all four lines going when you keep doing that.”

The Jets (44-25-4) swept the season series against Anaheim and they also increased their lead in the Central Division to three points over idle Nashville with nine games remaining.

“It’s awesome,” Hellebuyck said of his first shutout of the season. “It’s a monkey off my back, but you know what? It’s a testament to the guys. How well they played and they blocked shots and got the details right.”

The Ducks came in hot on offense, having scored 31 goals in the previous nine games, but they were held scoreless for the ninth time this season.

Center Ryan Kesler (hip injury) and defenseman Brendan Guhle (undisclosed) were out and remain day-to-day for Anaheim.

With the loss, the Ducks (30-36-9) remain in seventh in the Pacific Division — nine points out of the final playoff spot with seven games left.

The Ducks host San Jose on Friday before starting a four-game trip Saturday against the Kings at Staples Center.

sports@latimes.com

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