Winless on road trip, Maple Leafs face Ducks next

NHL
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So far, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ sojourn to California has been anything but a dream.

The Maple Leafs will look to salvage the finale of their three-game trip against the bottom trio of teams in the Western Conference when they play at Anaheim on Friday night.

Toronto opened the California swing with a 5-2 defeat in San Jose on Tuesday, then suffered a 1-0 shootout loss Thursday at Los Angeles.

“That was a pretty even hockey game,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Both goaltenders did a good job. … It wasn’t our greatest game or greatest effort by any means, but there’s a team on the other side that did a good job as well.”

It was the first time the Maple Leafs were blanked this season. They entered Thursday with an NHL-best 3.49 goals per game.

“You’re never going to (be consistent) all 82 games in a row, but certainly doing it more often than not, and that’s something that our guys are learning, and it’s something I’m very confident that they are going to continue to grow at,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan told Sportsnet in Los Angeles prior to Thursday’s game.

“I think it’s difficult to become a good team in the NHL, but I think it’s even more difficult to become an elite team. … To me, one of the biggest separations between the elite teams and the good teams is consistency, and that’s something that we are definitely as a group are trying to learn and develop,” Shanahan said.

The Ducks are coming off a 4-3 overtime victory Wednesday at Colorado, as Rickard Rakell scored the deciding goal with 1.2 seconds remaining in overtime to snap the Avalanche’s seven-game winning streak.

“I remember everybody was yelling at me to shoot the puck,” Rakell said. “I just tried to do something quick there and get a shot off, and it was nice to see it go in. We’re absolutely going to take these two points and enjoy it.”

It was Rakell’s first goal since Jan. 31, a span of 16 games.

“As (Rakell) was coming by the bench, our whole bench was counting the clock for him. As he was coming up the ice, it was the whole bench literally an orchestra of 6, 5 … they were counting it down. … The communication there obviously helped, but he’s a smart shooter,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “He’s really struggled to score as of late. It’s been wearing on him. To see him get rewarded like that, especially in overtime, those goals are special. We’re elated for him.”

Ryan Miller made 32 saves for the Ducks, who lost 6-2 at Chicago the previous night.

The victory was the 386th of Miller’s career, moving him past Mike Vernon in 15th place in NHL history. He also tied Tom Barrasso for second among U.S.-born goalies by playing in his 777th game and passed Barrasso for second among U.S. goalies by making his 756th start.

“We talked about just staying together and trying to have a group in whatever zone we were in,” Miller said. “I thought the guys did a good job working together.”

Eakins heaped praise on the 39-year-old Miller, who improved to 8-6-3 this season.

“A great night for him, for our team,” Eakins said. “He’s just been a wonder to have with our group. He brings such leadership and a calmness. He’s almost like a second coach.”

–Field Level Media

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