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Ducks can't stop losing streak or prevent Lightning from finishing a dominant December

Ducks can't stop losing streak or prevent Lightning from finishing a dominant December
Ducks center Brian Gibbons tries to skate past Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov during the second period Monday. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Hours before the clock strikes midnight, flipping the calendar to 2019, millions of Americans are keen on a positive outlook.

So, too, are the Ducks, whose season-long losing streak will roll into the new year.

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The club played on par with the league-best Tampa Bay Lightning for 60 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to halt their struggles. The NHL’s most high-powered offense (4.18 goals per game) found the game-winner on the stick of Brayden Point 35 seconds into overtime, giving Tampa Bay a 2-1 victory.

The Ducks picked up a point in a second consecutive overtime loss. They showed signs of improvement in the New Year’s Eve contest Monday before a sold-out crowd at the Honda Center, but their skid now totals six games.

Still, they occupy a wild-card spot in the playoffs if the season ended today. The Ducks can also take solace in holding Tampa Bay to only one regulation goal.

“If we were winning right now it wouldn’t be as frustrating, but it’s tough when you’ve lost a few in a row,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “We’re obviously in a little bit of a skid at the moment.

“We worked hard tonight and that’s a good sign for our group. We know what kind of group we have here, we showed it last month.”

That success is a distant memory. The Ducks reeled off winning streaks of five and four games before hitting their current skid. The offense continues to struggle with just nine goals over their last six contests.

Without their top goal scorer from a season ago (Rickard Rakell is nursing an ankle sprain), the offense shows no signs of breaking out; they’re ranked 29th in the NHL.

Nick Ritchie has been a bright spot, though. The power forward scored the Ducks’ lone goal, his fifth point in three games. Ritchie was situated on the right side of the crease and finished off a nifty cross-ice set-up from Ondrej Kase.

That first-period marker tied the contest after Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring about six minutes in with a one-timer goal off an assist from Point.

“You gotta take the positives out of it,” said defenseman Brandon Montour, the only Ducks player on the ice for both Lightning goals. “It was a better game overall.”

The Ducks are left to search for positives in lieu of victories. John Gibson was stellar in goal with 33 saves. The team denied the league’s best power-play unit in six minutes of man-advantage time. But sooner rather than later, the goals need to come in bunches.

“I wouldn’t call it a funk,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “Obviously we missed another point here tonight, and that’s what’s disappointing because it’s an overtime.

“But again, if we continue to work the way we worked tonight, and have our team commit to the game plan in which we were able to put forward tonight, we give ourselves a really good chance for success going forward.”

New beginnings for everyone, including the Ducks starting Friday at home against the Vegas Golden Knights.

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