A season-high in shots on goal means little if you can't score, and tonight the Ducks came up empty-handed in a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Ducks managed to put 44 shots on goal, 43 of which were handled by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The loss kept the Ducks winless through the first half of their season-long six-game, 14-day road trip that began with losses to the Florida Panthers on Friday and Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday (shootout).
Jakob Silfverberg scored the lone goal for the Ducks, who leaned heavily on John Gibson to keep this game respectable for 59 minutes. The 23-year-old netminder was sensational at times and made consecutive highlight-reel saves in the second period. The loss dropped Anaheim's record this season to 28-17-10 (66 points).
"I thought we did a lot of the things we talked about doing," said defenseman Cam Fowler. "Not the result we were looking for. Hard not to be discouraged with the result. When you look back at it, I thought we did a lot of good things. Maybe we could've put a little more traffic in front of Lundqvist. A few too many mistakes with the puck. All in all, I thought it was a solid effort."
Oscar Lindberg, Mats Zuccarello and Michael Grabner scored for the Rangers, who have won five consecutive games against the Ducks dating to Jan. 7, 2015. The victory improved the Blueshirts to 34-18-1 (69 points) overall this season. Lundqvist, meanwhile, bumped his record to 24-13-1 in 40 games this season.
Although the Ducks had all the pressure in the opening four minutes of the game, the Rangers were the ones who struck first on an opportunistic scoring chance at the goalmouth from Lindberg at the 4:01 mark of the first period. It was the second goal of the season for the 25-year-old Swede, who had 13 goals in 68 games last season.
Anaheim's best chance in the first period came on the stick of Brandon Montour, who snuck down low to get off a point-blank chance on Lundqvist, who alertly hugged the shortside post to shoulder the shot into the corner.
The Ducks did everything but score during the opening 20 minutes of play, and went to the locker room with a 16-6 shots advantage.
Second periods have been an eyesore for the Ducks all season, and they were burned yet again - this time at the 1:06 mark when Zuccarello scored his 11th goal of the season on a bad-angle shot from the right corner to put the Rangers up 2-0.
Gibson made two highlight-reel saves on the shifts that followed, first with a glove save on Grabner that had the home crowd in awe. He followed it up with an outstanding blocker save on a quick-developing 2-on-1 that began when Fowler lost an edge at the blue line. Derek Stepan threaded a pass under the stick of Kevin Bieksa and onto the tape of Jimmy Vesey, whose snap shot was denied by Gibson's blocker at the decisive moment.
Video: ANA@NYR: Gibson flashes the leather to rob Grabner
Video: ANA@NYR: Gibson dives for incredible blocker save
Perhaps inspired by Gibson's back-to-back saves, the Ducks cut the deficit in half when Silfverberg unloaded his patented snap shot past Lundqvist at the 6:14 mark of the period. The play started when Andrew Cogliano's persistent forecheck forced defenseman Brady Skjei to cough the puck up behind the net. Skjei's pass was intended for his partner Kevin Klein, but Cogliano's speed allowed him to corral it before sending a backhanded pass onto Silfverberg's blade. It marked Silfverberg's fifth career goal against the Rangers in nine games with Ottawa and Anaheim.
Video: ANA@NYR: Silfverberg beats Lundqvist from the circle
Grabner found redemption early in the third period when he was able to use his speed to sneak backdoor to put the Rangers up 3-1 in four-on-four hockey. The goal was his team-leading 24th of the season, 10 shy of his career high established in 2010-11 with the New York Islanders.
Grabner earned his second goal of the game with an empty-netter to seal the win with 18.5 seconds remaining.
"When you look at 19 or 20 shots, normally it would be good, but we gave up too many quality chances," said Fowler "[Gibson] gave us an opportunity to stay in the game, but the four-on-four goal hurt us in the third period. Definitely some room for improvement."
The Ducks will head to Buffalo to take on the Sabres at KeyBank Center on Thursday. "We need to continue supporting each other," said Fowler. "It's never as bad as it seems when you're going through a rut like this. We have to pull each other along and focus on the things we've done well so far. We'll get back to work tomorrow."