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Ducks play another strong game, but falter late in loss to Flames

The Ducks’ Brian Gibbons, right, tries to get past the Flames’ T.J. Brodie during the second period of Friday’s game in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
Anaheim Ducks’ Brian Gibbons, right, misses a check on Calgary Flames’ Austin Czarnik during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
Sound The gallery will resume in seconds The Ducks’ Brian Gibbons, left, is checked by the Flames’ T.J. Brodie during the second period of Friday’s game in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
Anaheim Ducks’ Adam Henrique, center, struggles to reach the puck in front of Calgary Flames goalie Mike Smith during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Ducks’ Jaycob Megna, left, checks Calgary Flames’ Garnet Hathaway during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
Ducks goalie Ryan Miller makes a diving save during the first period of Friday’s game against the Flames in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Ducks’ Corey Perry, right, gets to the puck ahead of the Flames’ Mark Giordano during the first period of Friday’s game in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
Anaheim Ducks’ Carter Rowney, left, is checked by Calgary Flames’ Garnet Hathaway during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Ducks’ Devin Shore, right, has his shot swatted away by Flames goalie Mike Smith during the second period of Friday’s game in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Flames’ Andrew Mangiapane, left, celebrates his go-ahead goal with teammates during the final minutes of the third period of Friday’s game against the Ducks on Friday in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
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CALGARY, Alberta — The Ducks’ top goaltender remained in Southern California, sidelined by back, neck and head injuries for the sixth consecutive game. Their top center couldn’t play Friday against the Calgary Flames because of an unspecified upper-body injury, scratched minutes before the opening faceoff.
If they were hamstrung by playing without John Gibson and Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks didn’t show it during a 2-1 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. They soldiered on without them and continued their dramatic turnaround after their Feb. 10 coaching change.
Andrew Mangiapane scored the tiebreaking goal for the Flames with 3:29 to play, a pinball play on a 2-on-1. Mangiapane’s cross-ice pass was deflected back to him after Jaycob Megna blocked it. Mangiapane then beat Ryan Miller from close range.
In the end, the Ducks provided the Flames with a refresher course on why Calgary’s worst nightmare might be facing a team that has tormented them over the years in the playoffs. The Ducks have to get there first, though, and that’s going to be a chore after their two-month belly flop.
Losses in seven consecutive games and 19 of 21 prompted General Manager Bob Murray to fire Randy Carlyle and assume the coaching duties himself. Murray said he expected the Ducks to rally around the change and to improve their play, but the fact is the Ducks look like a totally different team.
They have eliminated the defensive lapses that plagued them during a seven-game stretch in which they were outscored 37-8. Their passing, especially when exiting their own zone and skating down the ice, has been on target. They don’t get pinned in their own end of the ice as often.
Patience and poise defined the Ducks’ play for the fifth consecutive game, following victories over the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on Sunday and over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. There was a sense of purpose to the Ducks’ game on Friday that was sadly lacking in Carlyle’s final days.
There was no sense of panic after Calgary’s TJ Brodie scored on a perimeter shot that deflected off the knee of Ducks defenseman Megna and sailed past Miller at 1:22 of the second period. The Ducks withstood a brief surge in the Flames’ momentum and then pushed back.
Derek Grant slammed home a centering pass from Carter Rowney to tie the score at 1-1 at 6:13 of the second. Rowney outhustled Calgary goalie Mike Smith to a loose puck behind the net and fed a pass out front for Grant to shoot into the empty net.
Murray shuffled his lines, shifting Rickard Rakell from left wing to center to replace Getzlaf. Nick Ritchie moved up to take Rakell’s spot on left wing and Corey Perry maintained his spot on right wing. Brian Gibbons rejoined the lineup and replaced Ritchie on the fourth line.
Funny thing, too. The line of Gibbons, Rowney and center Ryan Kesler was one of the Ducks’ most effective lines. Adam Henrique centered the Ducks’ most dangerous line, with rookies Max Jones and Troy Terry skating on his wings and creating scoring chances on almost every shift.
More to come on this story.

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