ANAHEIM - The banged-up Ducks needed all they could muster against the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, and they came about as close as you can get to stealing a victory.
John Gibson made a triumphant return from a brief injury respite with 35 saves, and Anaheim came within a whisker of tying the game in the third before succumbing 2-1 to the Lightning. Tampa's league-best record improved to 14-2-2, while Anaheim dropped to 7-7-3 while continuing to trudge on without several of their injured stars.
Trailing by a goal midway through the third, Anaheim appeared to tie it on the power play via a Brandon Montour one-timer, as the puck went under goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and disappeared from view. Replays appeared to show the puck slid over the stripe under Vasilevskiy's leg pad, but officials ruled there was no clear evidence to overturn the call of "no goal" on the ice.
"I think everybody in the building would say it appeared to be in, but you have to have definitive proof that the puck was in the net," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "That is the rule. It's unfortunate it didn't go in our favor, but, to truthfully tell you, could you tell if the puck entered the net? Everybody thought it was because it was under the pad, but that's the reality. That's the way the rules are. Sometimes you get those breaks, and they go for you, and sometimes they don't. Tonight was one of those nights it didn't go for us."
Added Montour: "I thought it was in. [We] thought it was in. But with video [replay], you couldn't really see the puck. They took a while to figure out whether or not to call it, so it's a tough play. We wished to have that one, but we had three minutes or so left. It gave us a chance. Tough call, hard to make."
The Ducks had a couple more chances to ultimately nab that tying goal down the stretch, but they couldn't get it before the horn, despite sending off Gibson for an extra attacker in the final minute and a half.
"We've been happy with how we've been playing the last couple of games," Montour said. "Tampa is considered the best team in the league right now. To have an opportunity like that, in a close game like that, it's a positive. Every team can beat every team. We would've loved to have that one."
Gibson almost single-handedly kept the game scoreless after the first, saving all 17 Tampa Bay shots, including at least a couple from right on the doorstep.
"Our goalie held us in the first period," Ducks forward Corey Perry said. "He made some big saves for us. That wasn't the way to play a game against a team like that, but we found a way to claw back into the hockey game. A bounce here and there it could go either way."
Video: TBL@ANA: Gibson slides post-to-post to rob Kucherov
The Ducks did finally surrender the game's first goal on the power play close to midway through the second period when Vladislav Namestnikov swept in a loose puck in the crease.
Anaheim got even early in the third period when Jakob Silfverberg whipped a shot home from just outside the crease for his third goal in the last two games.
Video: TBL@ANA: Silfverberg snaps one by Vasilevskiy
Tampa re-took the lead a few minutes later when J.T. Brown buried a wrist shot from the left wing circle, which held up as the game-winner.
The Ducks face the fourth stage of their five-game homestand Wednesday night vs. Boston at Honda Center.