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Recap: Ducks Struck Down by Lightning, 4-3 at Honda Center

by Adam Brady @AdamJBrady /

ANAHEIM -- The Tampa Bay Lightning's pair of high-flying scorers were kept mostly quiet for the first 50 minutes of tonight's battle at Honda Center. That was until they combined on the crucial goal that all but buried that Ducks tonight.

Tampa scoring leaders Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos were held without a shot until the Ducks were dealt a dagger just past the halfway point of the third period while trying desperately to tie the game. That's when Kucherov gave the Bolts a 4-2 lead with a pretty backhand after getting behind the Anaheim defense to take in a stretch pass from Stamkos. Kucherov took over the team lead from Stamkos with his 23rd goal of the season and gave the Bolts a two-goal cushion with just over nine minutes left.

The Ducks ultimately got their third goal with just 11.9 seconds left from Troy Terry, who redirected a Rickard Rakell feed.

Video: TBL@ANA: Terry scores in 3rd period

But the Bolts held on the rest of the way for their 10th victory in the last 13 games, while Anaheim came into the night with a relatively modest three wins in the last four.

"Right now, it's hard to take," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. "You're right there in the game, and we have a couple of missed plays and they end up in our net. We had plenty of opportunities. We had a couple wide-open nets, and we couldn't get it in. That's the frustrating part. We're trying to take strides. I thought we played a solid game, but the result is not what we want."

The Ducks dug an early hole after a Ondrej Palat one-timer off a nice Anthony Cirelli feed made it 1-0 at 4:07 of the first.

The Ducks got even halfway through the period on a beauty of a play by Rakell, who fanned on a shot, recovered the puck, spun and sniped the next one under the bar. It was his 13th of the season.

Video: TBL@ANA: Rakell turns, rips wrist shot to the twine

Erik Cernak's shot on the rush that snuck under John Gibson made it a 2-1 game with five minutes left in the first.

Gibson was wearing a tribute mask that featured a silhouette of the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, surrounded by the names of the seven other victims of Sunday's tragedy in Calabasas. It also includes the years of all five of Bryant's championships and his 81-point game.

Video: TBL@ANA: Gibson honors Kobe Bryant with mask

Anaheim tied it again from an unlikely source, as Michael Del Zotto swiped the puck in the Tampa end and fired a wrister from the slot for his second of the year.

Video: TBL@ANA: Del Zotto rips shot through traffic

"They've been a contender. As long as I've been in the league, they've been in the mix every year," Del Zotto said of the Lightning. "They have 50-goal scorers and guys that have been doing it for a long time. It showed tonight. We played some really good hockey, but one or two mistakes and they capitalized."

The Ducks had a number of chances to take their first lead, but instead Tampa went in front 3-2 with a minute left in the second on a goal that deflected in off Cirelli's leg, and Anaheim never did find the net until it was too little too late.

"We're playing a little bit better hockey now, but when we turn the puck over, something dangerous is happening against us all the time," Rakell said. "I don't know why, but it feels like we're playing really well from time to time, or most times in the game, and then something happens and it's in the back of the net. We still have things to work on."

The Ducks are right back at it tomorrow night in LA against the rival Kings, the one team below Anaheim in the Western Conference standings.

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