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Ducks done in by familiar faces in loss to Predators

ANAHEIM — To the surprise of (almost) no one, the usual suspects did the damage against the Ducks on Friday afternoon.

Once again, it was Nashville forwards Filip Forsberg and Colton Sissons and Predators goalie Juuse Saros continuing to haunt the Ducks.

Forsberg had a three-point afternoon (one goal, two assists) in his 600th NHL game, while Sissons had a goal and an assist and Sarros made 26 saves in leading the Predators to a 6-1 victory against the Ducks at Honda Center. Forsberg has 23 points in 21 career games against the Ducks, and Sissons has five goals and 11 points in 17 regular-season games versus Anaheim. Saros has won five times in seven career games against the Ducks.

But it should be noted that much of the Ducks’ damage was self-inflicted. After getting a point against Calgary and a win against Vegas, the Ducks (10-23-4) regressed in a significant way against the Predators.

“We’re definitely not a team that can afford to take a night off and rely on us getting a few chances and scoring,” Ducks forward Troy Terry said. “That’s the reality of the team. What’s disappointing today is, it starts with myself. But we played a team that has got skill, but they play the way we need to.

“They play hard. They play hard on the puck. Nothing is easy against them. … It’s myself. It’s everyone. I’ll take a look in the mirror after that one and realize it’s not X’s and O’s. We just got outworked and outwilled. That’s what that team does and we can’t let it happen.”

This one looked like it was going to be another tight contest – like Nashville’s 2-1 overtime win against the Ducks on Nov. 29 – and it was shaping up that way until midway through the second period. The Predators led 1-0 after one period before they broke it open with two goals in the second period and three more in the third. The lone Ducks goal came from their fourth line – Sam Carrick scored his second of the season at 2:20 of the second to tie the score at 1-1.

“We’ve probably lost too many 50-50 battles that when we are playing our best we’re winning those puck battles. We’re playing with the puck and making the right decisions when we get the puck,” Carrick said. “We just didn’t really do that tonight.”

The Ducks trailed 3-1 after two periods and made a concerted push to start the third – defenseman John Klingberg hit the post and Saros made a big pad save on Terry in the first five minutes of the final period. Then the dagger came from Predators fourth liner Tommy Novak, who made it 4-1 at 10:44.

Ducks goalie John Gibson faced 43 shots on goal, making it the ninth time he has faced 40-plus shots in a game this season

“It’s hard. It’s deflating when you go down like that,” Terry said. “To give up is inexcusable. The message with everyone is it’s unfair we put No. 36 (Gibson) through enough back there.

“He keeps us in every game and to give them free rein at our net isn’t fair to him. I thought we came out in the third, honestly, I thought we came out hard. Myself, I need to finish. It feels like a thousand chances I’m getting.”

Terry described Novak’s goal as “a punch to everyone’s gut.”

“It’s hard. It’s hard for myself,” he said. “But the season is going to be too long if we start giving up, especially on No. 36 back there. It’s not fair to him.”

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins cited another factor – too much individual play.

“We can’t get offensive pressure if we’re going to try and do it by ourselves,” he said. “And for whatever reason tonight at certain times of the game it was all about the individual trying to do it by themselves. You can’t win in this league. You can’t have any success in this league by yourself. You need your teammates. You need support.

“That’s kind of the first time we’ve seen that. There’s been nights where we’ve been off as a group or maybe the other team is better than us. But tonight, we tried to do a whole lot of things all by ourselves.”

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Again, it takes a near-perfect effort and close to otherworldly goaltending from Gibson or rookie Lukas Dostal for the Ducks to have a chance at winning. The support Gibson received against the Predators was well below average.

“It’s no secret that we’re in a rebuild,” Eakins said. “We’re trying to develop players on the fly. We’re doing our best to compete every night. That’s the reality where our team is at. When you are a team like that you can’t make mistakes and you certainly cannot do things by yourself. We cannot have guys being single contractors.”

COMINGS AND GOINGS

• The Ducks signed goaltender Gage Alexander to a three-year, entry-level contract on Friday and assigned him to AHL San Diego. Alexander, 20, was a fifth-round selection (No. 148 overall) by the Ducks in the 2021 draft. This season, he was 8-5-1 with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League with a 3.47 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.

• Devante Smith-Pelly, who was drafted by the Ducks in 2010 and played the first 129 games of his NHL career with Anaheim and won a Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018, has retired from professional hockey. He made the announcement on Friday, via his Instagram account, writing: “I am so proud to say that a kid from Scarborough, Ontario leaves a Stanley Cup champion. I will forever be grateful for my experiences.”

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