NEW YORK — The Ducks had miles to skate before they could rest, making a stop at Madison Square Garden for the fifth and final game of their trip. If they were beaten down by injuries, by the news of the trade of one of their longtime core players and by the grind of travel, it didn’t show on Tuesday night.
Well, not until near the end of 60-plus grueling minutes, when the New York Rangers pressed for the tie-breaking goal and the Ducks were on their heels, summoning all their reserve energy to push the game into overtime. They got one point in the standings, but not two.
New York’s Adam Fox won it, 4-3, with a goal 55 seconds into OT, sending the reeling Ducks home with a 0-3-2 record on what loomed as a pivotal trip but now looks like the breaking point. The playoff race has left them behind, with their post-All-Star break skid reaching 4-9-2.
The Ducks are 27-25-11, sixth in the Pacific Division and out of a playoff spot.
“You just need to win,” said Ducks center Adam Henrique, who assisted on goals by Max Comtois in the first period and Cam Fowler in the second. “If it’s an ugly win, it’s a win. If it’s a nice win, it’s a win. You need those two points. That’s the bottom line right now. It was a tough trip overall, really.”
The Ducks began their cross-country journey with an 8-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, which was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, a 2-1 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils and a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders. It wasn’t what they had in mind.
Derek Grant’s tie-breaking goal 10:35 into the third period gave the Ducks their only advantage over the Rangers, a short-lived 3-2 lead. Chris Kreider tied it for the Rangers with a power-play goal 3:05 later, smacking home a rebound of an errant perimeter shot from Fox.
The Ducks were without injured forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell and also defenseman Josh Manson, who was traded 24 hours earlier to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for 20-year-old prospect Drew Helleson and a second-round draft pick in 2023 .
“It’s hard, anyway you look at it,” Henrique said of playing without Manson one night after he was dealt. “What he brought to the team on the ice: his game, his toughness, his responsible play. He’s an unbelievable teammate, a guy who would go through a wall for anybody.”
In fact, Manson would have been in his element Tuesday, with the Ducks countering the Rangers’ offensive surges with physical play and their physical play with more physicality. Instead, he was with the Avalanche in Los Angeles, making his debut against the Kings.
No question, the Ducks could have used him against the Rangers, but they skated on without him, trading goals and hard hits with New York until the closing minutes. Grant’s tie-breaking goal, on a breakaway set up by recent AHL call-up Danny O’Regan, came against the run of play.
New York outshot the Ducks 19-7 in the third period and 38-23 overall.
“The last two games, our guys have played hard,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said, referring to the one-goal losses Tuesday to the Rangers and Sunday to the Islanders. “They’ve played for each other. In this building, against a really good team, we checked well and we had our chances.”