TORONTO — Goaltender John Gibson didn’t even stick around to watch the end of his club’s latest loss — Anaheim’s fourth in a row and 16th in 18 games.
Gibson was pulled midway through the third period after allowing a fifth goal in a 6-1 defeat against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at Scotiabank Arena.
It was the third consecutive game the 25-year-old didn’t make it to the final buzzer — following a 5-1 loss to St. Louis and a 9-3 pounding against Winnipeg — and this time he chose to head down the tunnel to the locker-room and not return for the final 13 minutes after stopping 30-of-35 shots against Toronto.
“He’s had lots of work and mentally I’m sure he’s feeling it,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle post-game.
Gibson entered Monday night as one of the league’s most heavily worked netminders, and has faced the most shots on net amongst starters (1,410) in 45 games played.
He’s about the only reason Anaheim has been in many games at all this season with the Ducks producing the second fewest goals behind only the L.A. Kings.
Gibson Can Only Do so Much
But the minutes and amount of shots faced every night are starting to take a toll on the Pittsburgh native. And Carlyle says it was noticeable when Jake Muzzin made it 3-0 for Toronto with a point shot late in the second period.
“There’s some signs of fatigue for sure, specifically when I look at the Muzzin goal, I didn’t see him on the top of his crease, he was back, there was blue paint under his feet and that’s not Gibby,” said Carlyle.
“He historically works the top of that crease, if he’s there it might have hit him, but it might not have though. You don’t know.”
Gibson, who wasn’t available to speak post-game, has given up 16 goals on 80 shots in his past three starts — staggering numbers for a goaltender pegged by some as a potential Vezina Trophy candidate before the season.
“Nothing against Gibby but I don’t care about the Vezina, I care about turning this ship around,” said Ducks defenceman Josh Manson.
“Unfortunately he’s played his heart out for us and came up big for us, pretty much single-handedly won us games. The main thing is to get building again and make a push for the playoffs because we’re not that far out of it.”
Ducks Losing, but Still in the Hunt
Anaheim set a franchise-worst 12-game losing streak in January before its recent run of trouble, but is just three points out of a playoff spot in the West.
They are trying to stay positive, but for how much longer is unknown.
“It sucks, I’d rather not talk about it, it’s the same thing over and over,” said Ducks forward Rickard Rakell, who scored his team’s lone goal.
“During my whole time here we’ve always been a successful team and tough to play against. Obviously that’s not the case right now but I have to be part of turning this around because we don’t have much time left.”
The game wasn’t even three minutes old on Monday and Gibson had made two big saves to keep Toronto from scoring.
John Tavares finally scored with the Maple Leafs’ 15th shot 3:02 into the second period and Andreas Johnsson used a backhand to beat a sprawled-out Gibson off a rebound for a 2-0 lead soon after.
Muzzin laid a big hit on Corey Perry, drew a retaliatory penalty on Nick Ritchie and then blasted his first goal as a Leaf past Gibson off the ensuing faceoff with just seven seconds to play in the second.
“Kind of an undisciplined act but I don’t think it warranted a penalty,” Carlyle said of Ritchie’s penalty. “Seen a lot worse let go.”
Rakell put the Ducks on the board with a wrist shot from inside the circle over Frederik Andersen’s blocker at 2:45 of the third.
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But the Leafs responded only 31 seconds later when Connor Brown finished off a cross-crease pass from William Nylander, who then made it 5-1 with a goal of his own at 6:04 — ending Gibson’s night.
“Get the feeling every time we are on the ice you are trying not to get scored on,” said Rakell.
Johnsson scored his second of the game on Chad Johnson, who came on in relief for the final 13:38.
“It’s really tough for us, we are going through this every day,” said Rakell. “You’re trying to regroup and have a good feeling before every game and then I sit here after the game and it’s 6-1, last one 9-3, it sucks, it’s awful.”
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Kyle Cicerella, The Canadian Press