Ducks fall to Blues in final season meeting

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Ducks were swept in their season series against the Blues with a shootout loss on Sunday night.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Ducks erased three deficits in their final matchup against the St. Louis Blues, but fell 6-5 in the shootout Sunday night at the Honda Center.

The loss left the Ducks, who are already eliminated from the playoffs, with a 25-48-5, all but locked into third spot of the draft lottery with four games remaining. The Blues (41-32-5) kept their slim hopes alive for the final wild-card spot in the playoffs.

Anaheim was led by Frank Vatrano and Leo Carlsson, who scored two goals apiece, and a single score by Nikita Nesterenko.

“I liked how we came back,” Vatrano said. “I liked the way we responded and played that game.”

Anaheim barely had time to blink before the Blues took the lead 11 seconds into the game off a wrist shot from Zack Bolduc, but Nesterenko tied the game 2 1/2 minutes later. The rookie took up a crease presence in front of Jordan Binnington and scored off a rebound from the point by Gustav Lindström.

“I was really happy he scored a goal tonight,” Cronin said. “It was just kind of a typical third line goal, puck that got bounced around and went up to the top. He backed Parayko into the net and he got the rebound, so good for him.”

The teams traded goals to make it 2-2 before the Blues pulled ahead by 4-2 thanks to goals from Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich in two minutes. Thomas had four points on the night, with his goal coming on the power play after Ducks’ Ross Johnston took a high sticking penalty.

The Ducks had several chances to score. Ryan Strome, in particular, had several golden opportunities to put the puck past Binnington — including a breakaway off an outlet pass from Cam Fowler — but could not convert.

Apr 7, 2024; Anaheim, California, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Olen Zellweger (51) plays for the puck against St. Louis Blues center Nikita Alexandrov (59) during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After Anaheim drew within one early in the third on Carlsson’s first goal of the game, Brayden Schenn restored St. Louis’ two-goal lead on the power play. 

But the Ducks weren’t done. Vatrano made amends for his interference penalty which led to the Blues’ fifth goal by hoisting a backhand past Binnington from the slot after a one-handed pass from behind the net by Trevor Zegras.

Carlsson’s second goal of the game came after Fowler drove down the right wing and dropped a pass to Killorn, who found Carlsson alone in the slot. That’s now three goals for the Swedish forward in the last two games after scoring against the Seattle Kraken on Friday. Before that, he had scored one goal in the last 32 games.

“It feels like a ‘finally’ moment,” said Carlsson, who acknowledged that he hadn’t scored in a while before this recent run. “Feels amazing to score goals again.”

“I thought tonight, the first two periods, he was just okay,” Cronin said. “And then the third period, he just took off. He hit the crossbar too. It’s another sign of maturity in having confidence in his abilities, he’s a heck of a player.”

Overtime bred scattered scoring chances, but neither team was able to break the deadlock, leading to a shootout. The Ducks opted to go first and Zegras nearly put them ahead. His deke faked out Binnington and left the glove side open, but Zegras’ backhand attempt hit the post.

Jordan Kyrou beat Lukáš Dostál glove side and then Binnington stopped Carlsson and Troy Terry — in between a miss from Schenn — and sealed the extra point for the Blues.

“That was a very fun hockey game to be a part of, especially with only four games left now,” Vatrano said. “It was a great atmosphere against a great team and we just ended up on the wrong side of it.”

“(The comeback) was great,” Cronin said. “It’s a shame we couldn’t score in overtime or get a shootout goal, but it’s entertaining for the fans.”