Despite a remarkable third-period rally that saw the Ducks erase a three-goal deficit, they couldn't find the equalizer in the frantic final minute of an eventual 6-4 loss to the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Saturday night. Anaheim trailed 3-0 after the first period and 4-1 during the middle frame, but three unanswered goals nearly capped off what would've been the biggest comeback victory of the season by far, had the Ducks found a way to earn two points.
Instead, the Ducks are left wondering what could've been, as they lose for the fourth time in the last five games (1-3-1).
Jakob Silfverberg scored Anaheim's first goal of the game to cut the deficit to 3-1, and then Hampus Lindholm, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf turned a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 tie. Despite giving up five goals in the loss, John Gibson was stellar yet again - turning in a 33-save performance.
"We can play with any team in the league if we play all night," said Getzlaf, who finished the game with three points (1g/2a). "The whole first period we didn't really play hockey. They're a great team, and they're going to score goals. They showed that tonight."
TJ Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik, Zach Sanford and Marcus Johansson scored for the Caps, who won for the 12th consecutive time at Verizon Center - the second-longest streak of its kind in their franchise history. (The Capitals won 13 straight home games in 2009-10 and posted a 12-game home winning streak last season.) Braden Holtby wasn't at his best, but stopped 18-of-22 shots to improve to 14-0-0 in his last 16 games.
With six goals tonight, the Capitals tied the 1970-71 Boston Bruins for consecutive home games with five or more goals (11). During the streak, Washington has outscored opponents 62-19.
With Corey Perry in the penalty box, the Capitals quickly showed why they're the most dominant offensive team in the league. After being denied on a one-timer from the high slot on the previous play, Oshie responded with a similar-looking shot that snuck past Gibson to put the Capitals up 1-0 at the 6:45 mark of the first period. The goal, his 23rd of the season, was also his 400th career NHL point. Opening the scoring was nothing new for the Caps, who did it for the 18th time in the last 20 games.
Backstrom increased the lead to 2-0 with 5:25 remaining in the first on a defensive breakdown that allowed him to circle behind the net before corralling a rebound for his 17th goal of the season.
Riding a wave of momentum, the Caps made it 3-0 off a one-timer from Wilson, who buried the shot from just inside the left dot. They made it look easy as they entered the zone on a 4-on-3 rush, backing off the Ducks before two quick passes had Anaheim out of sorts. Waiting all by his lonesome was Wilson, whose goal was his fourth of the season. It was a dominant first period for the Caps, who out-shot the Ducks 16-5.
The Ducks cut the deficit to 3-1 when Silfverberg's snap shot beat Holtby over his right shoulder at the 7:16 mark of the second period. The goal was Silfverberg's 17th of the season and 35th point overall. Furthermore, the goal gave him nine points (6g/3a) in his last 12 games.
Video: ANA@WSH: Silfverberg rips a wrister top shelf
Unfazed by Silfverberg's goal, the Capitals responded with a shorthanded tally from Winnik who beat Gibson low to the glove side at the 12:18 mark of the middle frame. It was the fourth shorthanded goal given up by the Ducks this season.
Anaheim's comeback began with an impressive individual effort from Lindholm, whose persistence paid off when he buried his own rebound to make it a 4-2 game. Lindholm crashed the net from the point and was denied on his initial shot, but he showed awareness to track down his rebound. It was his fifth goal and 12th point this season, and placed him in a tie with Bobby Dollas (28) for ninth on the franchise's all-time goals list for defensemen. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz challenged the goal, but the call on the ice stood.
Video: ANA@WSH: Lindholm stays with puck, puts home rebound
The Ducks cut the deficit to just one goal when Kesler's diligent forecheck ultimately led to his 10th goal of the season - a snap shot that snuck through an Andrew Cogliano screen at the 9:38 mark of the third period. The play started when Kesler forced a turnover from Dmitry Orlov as he tried to exit the zone. Cam Fowler made a heads-up pinch at the blueline to pick up the puck with momentum, which carried him into the far corner. From there, he found time and space to feed it to Kesler, who was left alone between the dots.
Video: ANA@WSH: Kesler buries Fowler's pass to cut deficit
"I thought we did a lot better of a job in the second period going out and making them react to what we were doing, as opposed to watching them," said Getzlaf. "That's when it started to turn in our favor."
Just two minutes later, the Ducks finished off their remarkable comeback when Fowler used a beautiful stretch pass to spring Getzlaf in on a breakaway from the red line. The captain lugged the puck in on Holtby before beating him glove-side in front of a stunned sellout crowd at Verizon Center.
Video: ANA@WSH: Getzlaf converts on breakaway to tie game
The Capitals re-gained the lead with just over two minutes remaining when Sanford's wrist shot caught just enough of Gibson's shoulder before trickling across the line. It was the first career NHL goal for the rookie, who was inserted into the lineup in place of Andre Burakovsky, who is out of the lineup until mid- to late March with a hand injury.
Despite a flurry of goal-mouth chances in the final minute of regulation, the Ducks couldn't find the equalizer, and an eventual empty-net goal from Johansson put the Caps up for good, 6-4, to give them their 12th consecutive victory on home ice.
The Ducks will travel to St. Paul, Minnesota to take on the Wild on Tuesday in the finale of this six-game, 14-day road trip that will span more than 8,000 miles when all is said and done.
"We've got a couple of days to prepare," said Getzlaf. "We need to be ready."