WASHINGTON (AP) — Jakob Silfverberg scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, John Gibson made 41 saves and the Anaheim Ducks handed the reeling Washington Capitals a sixth consecutive defeat, 4-2 Thursday night.
The Capitals are mired in their longest losing streak since losing seven in a row in 2019 and their longest stretch without a point in nearly two decades. They last lost six consecutive games all in regulation in October 2003, before the NHL had a salary cap and before Alex Ovechkin was drafted.
This loss to the last-place Ducks, who ended their six-game skid, came in the aftermath of Washington trading two key players. Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Dmitry Orlov and gritty winger Garnet Hathaway were sent to the league-leading Boston Bruins for draft picks and depth forward Craig Smith, the start of the first trade deadline selloff by the Capitals since Ovechkin’s rookie year in 2005-06.
“We still have a chance to make the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “You never know what’s gonna happen. We just will continue to play. … Nothing we can do. We players, we have to play the game and it’s not our job to make a decision.”
The team’s struggles in recent weeks contributed to general manager Brian MacLellan making the first of what could be several moves trading pending free agents such as Orlov and Hathaway. Defenseman Nick Jensen, who scored one of Washington’s two goals, could be another.
Anaheim will also be selling, but the Ducks enjoyed a moment of joy in a rough season thanks to goals by Isac Lundestrom, Troy Terry and Silfverberg, an empty-netter by Derek Grant.
“It’s been tough sledding this year for us, I think: a lot of ups and downs,” said Ducks center Ryan Strome, who improved to 7-0 in the NHL against brother Dylan. “In such a tough season, you want to ride the highs as much as you can.”
Strome wants Gibson to ride high after Anaheim’s long-term starting goalie made some hockey history.
Gibson’s 21st save gave him the most through a goalie’s first 40 games of the season since Hall of Famer Jacques Plante made 1,396 for the New York Rangers in 1963-64. Gibson, who has faced the most shots and made the most saves in the NHL this season, made 40-plus stops for a league-leading 10th time.
“I feel like he’s making 40 saves every night,” Silfverberg said. “He’s been terrific for us.”
The Capitals were booed by home fans amid several turnovers, missed defensive assignments and at least one soft goal given up by Charlie Lindgren, who faced just 20 shots in his first start since Feb. 12 — the start of this skid.
“It’s been a really tough stretch here,” Lindgren said. “There’s no room for pouting. There’s no room for sulking.”
Ovechkin in his first game back after missing the past week for the death of his father had a few quality scoring chances but no points. He and his teammates wore white and red stickers saying “Papa Ovi” on their helmets.
“Thanks for team, thanks for organization for support,” Ovechkin said. “It was a hard time for me, for my family and for all my friends, but it’s life and it’s gonna be a memory forever and we just have to move on.”
Terry scored in his first game back from injury, while the Ducks played without two players who are candidates to be traded: defenseman John Klingberg and winger Adam Henrique, out with lower-body injuries.
Ducks: Wrap up this four-game Eastern Conference road trip at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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