Colorado had not played since a 5-2 loss at Nashville on Dec. 16 due to COVID-19 cases on the team. Eleven players tested positive for the virus since beating the New York Rangers on Dec. 14, with players returning from health and safety protocols in the past week.
“Just getting our legs under us,” Nathan MacKinnon said. “I don’t think anyone felt amazing tonight. Physicality, lungs, legs, whatever, it was a grind for sure, but we got it done.”
Fowler missed Friday’s loss at Vegas with an upper-body injury suffered against Vancouver on Wednesday but was able to suit up Sunday. It wasn’t enough to avoid a fourth straight loss for the Ducks.
“I don’t think the guys felt like they brought everything they could in the Vegas game and (Sunday) we wanted to come in with a strong mindset,” Fowler said. “The compete level was there today, but that’s only going to take you so far. We’ve got to find ways to win these hockey games and earn a better fate. We expect better than just hanging around and being close.”
O’Connor broke the tie when he and MacKinnon came into the zone on an odd-man rush. MacKinnon passed it to O’Connor, who went to one knee to beat Gibson at 18:49. It was his sixth goal of the season.
“Once I saw the (defenseman) slide, Nate being on his forehand, I saw he could slide it across,” O’Connor said. “He made a real good play, got some good air on it. Great pass, great awareness.”
Gibson went off for an extra skater with a minute left, and Rantanen scored into the empty net, his team-leading 15th goal of the season.
“It’s one of those nights, we can sit and talk about how good we played for 58 minutes, but we lost the game,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “It doesn’t feel very good.”
MORE COVID ISSUES
Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf entered the NHL health and safety protocols before the game while forward Maxime Comtois returned to the lineup from protocols.
Comtois missed the last two games while in protocols.
Eakins said he wasn’t sure if Getzlaf will have to stay in Denver.
“We’re looking into what options are available. They’re fairly limited,” he said.
Avalanche F Valeri Nichushkin (upper body) was scratched with an injury but is not expected to miss much time. Defenseman Ryan Murray (upper body) missed his 10th straight game. ... Ducks C Trevor Zagras, who was not in the lineup Sunday, was named the NHL rookie of the month for December. ... MacKinnon had three assists to extend his points streak to 10 games.
Ducks: Host Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Avalanche: At Chicago on Tuesday night.