By Mike Coppinger
The Ducks appeared headed for yet another defeat in a hard-luck start to their season.
Then Ryan Getzlaf, with just 25.3 seconds remaining, fired a dazzling slap-pass to Rickard Rakell, who finished the play to tie the score.
Still, the Ducks fell in a shootout to the New York Rangers 3-2 Thursday at Honda Center, their seventh consecutive loss.
The late effort to at least collect one point was a much-needed morale booster in a season that threatens to crash off the rails with each passing setback.
“We gotta find that urgency that we have when we’re trying to tie up the game same as if we had the lead or in a tied game,” said Rakell, the team’s lone All-Star last season. “That’s when we play our best.”
Rakell acknowledged it was consolation that the Ducks “tied the game so late. It’s better than losing 2-1. But at the same time, we want to get two points.
“There’s not much we can do right now besides take this point and move on.”
The Ducks also tied the score late Sunday, with under 2:30 remaining, only to lose in regulation when the Philadelphia Flyers scored 21 seconds later.
Despite the same result, this was a far better performance. The Ducks outshot the opposition for just the second time all season (30-24). Winning the possession battle is one positive. Another is Randy Carlyle’s crew allowing just 17 scoring chances during five-on-five play. Their average entering the game was a shade over 29.
At this juncture, the Ducks will grab onto any sliver of positive they can find. But that’s not what they really need at the moment. Victories — two points — are what they’re desperately after.
They had a chance in the shootout, but John Gibson was beaten by the only two shooters he faced (Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello).
The shootout followed another fine performance by the goaltender during regulation and overtime. He made 22 saves on 24 shots, but his record falls to 4-4-3 despite a sparkling .936 save percentage and a 2.39 goals-against-average.
The Ducks continue to play from behind. Thursday’s contest marked the fifth consecutive game where the Ducks were on the wrong end of the game’s first goal. It’s a losing recipe for a team short on dynamic scoring options.
One player they hope will aid them in that department is Patrick Eaves. The winger returned to the lineup for his first game since Oct. 13, 2017. He played just two games last season before he was misdiagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Eaves was instead dealing with a post-viral illness, and it cost him his season.
Then in March, he underwent shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the first 13 games of the season. When he hit the ice for his first shift Thursday, the 16,101 fans on hand let out a roar.
The bearded forward scored 32 goals in his last full season in the NHL, but he’s far from that scoring threat right now after such a long hiatus.
“My expectations are very low when a player has missed over a year of hockey,” Carlyle said. “It’s hard to put any expectations other than hopefully he survives, gets through it and gets his feet underneath him.”
The Ducks are trying to find their footing too amid some real adversity early in the season. The calendar has flipped to November, and they’re slowly running out of time to right the ship.