ANAHEIM - For the reeling Ducks, a battle with the league's hottest team was an unquestionably tall task, but a point tonight was a decent way to end 2018.
The Ducks fought tooth and nail with the NHL-best Lightning before Tampa Bay prevailed just 35 seconds into OT for a grinding 2-1 victory before a capacity crowd at Honda Center.
Anaheim's night came to a close when Tampa Bay's Brayden Point beat Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour down the ice on the first shift of 3-on-3 overtime before lifting a backhand over the shoulder of goalie John Gibson.
"We try to take something away from every game, whether you won or lose," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "Try to build off it and take some sort of positive into the next day's work. Our guys worked pretty hard tonight. A few mental errors we made throughout the game. We had opportunities again. They're a good hockey team over there that knows how to win."
It was a sixth straight loss for the Ducks, the second in a row they were defeated in the first half-minute of overtime. But earning a point is no small feat against a Lightning team that entered tonight on fire and improved to 31-7-2 on the season. Their 64 standings points are 10 more than their next-closest competitor (Toronto).
Coincidentally, the Ducks were the last team to beat the Lighthing in regulation, way back on November 27 in Tampa. Since then the Lightning have gone 14-0-1 while averaging close to five goals a game during the stretch. Prior to tonight, the Lightning had scored four or more goals in nine consecutive games and 28 games overall.
"It's one of those where you have to take the positives out of it," Montour said. "It was a better game overall. We got a point. You'd like that second one, but it is what is it. We'll move forward."
The Ducks controlled the opening six minutes of the game with nothing to show for it on the board, and Nikita Kucherov made it 1-0 Lightning by burying Tampa Bay's second shot of the game, his 19th goal of the year.
Anaheim got even with 2:52 left in the period when Nick Ritchie took in a beautiful Ondrej Kase pass just outside the crease and filled an open net.
Video: TBL@ANA: Ritchie buries nifty feed from Kase
That was the last of the scoring for both teams, though the Ducks had a number of chances among their 36 shots on net.
"It was a really entertaining game from the competitive standpoint from both sides," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We played against a hockey club that has lots of skill. I liked our attitude as far as starting on time. We had a little bit of a flat period in the second period. We started to watch the game and they kind of took over. We rallied in the third and gave ourselves a chance. We're going to need more efforts like this as we go forward. If we continue to work as hard as we did tonight, and execute just a touch higher, we'll have some success."
The Ducks will look to snap the streak in their first game of 2019, Friday night vs. Vegas at Honda Center.
"We're in a bit of a skid at the moment," Getzlaf said. "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. We need to get ready and get one again here in January."