ANAHEIM – Corey Perry and Cam Fowler still had their skates on. Shin pads were not removed from their sweaty bodies yet, as if there was some belief that their season wasn't over and they would get back on the ice to embark on another comeback.
That would imply that the Anaheim Ducks had a shot at a comeback in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series. Instead, the Ducks came out with another horrific start, struggled defensively at times and didn't generate a scoring chance in the third period in a 3-2 loss Sunday night to the Detroit Red Wings, an enormous letdown after the Ducks finished second in the conference.
"I think we all came to the rink tonight, not looking ahead, but looking for the win," Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan said. "We were confident coming in. This is a group that always continues to believe in itself. It's not a very happy group right now."
The Ducks can point to an absence from their top players and a failure to match the sheer clutch play of the Red Wings. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau broke up his top line of Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry at the start and at the end, when it was abundantly clear that Anaheim was rolling a stone up a hill.
Ryan had one shot on goal. Getzlaf lost 14 of 25 faceoffs. Perry put four shots on goal, but finished the series with no goals in seven games.
"It's definitely frustrating," Perry said. "It's not something that you think about, that's for sure. You get the job throughout the year … but it just didn't seem to be there in the series. You've got to give credit to them. They played well defensively, but also [Jimmy] Howard made some big saves."
Anaheim produced 15 come-from-behind wins in the regular season. It erased a 3-1 deficit with four minutes left in Game 6 and a 4-1 deficit with 13 minutes to go in Game 2. But the Ducks had difficulty responding after Detroit scored in the first two minutes and held a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
"I think we came out with a little bit of nerves," Getzlaf said. "I wouldn't say flat. Everyone in here was up for the game and everyone was excited to play. We got a lot of guys that haven't been in that situation, and some of the guys that have didn't do a good enough job leading it. We've got to be able to calm down a little bit when it comes to those situations and control the puck a little better."
Anaheim's demise was crystalized in the second period. Perry missed a chance in front off of Ryan's pass. Getzlaf had the puck taken from him by Henrik Zetterberg when the Ducks tried to set up their power play. At one point, Perry was offsides on a rush with Getzlaf.
Even Teemu Selanne lost his composure and took a cross-checking penalty that ended a Ducks' power play.
The third period? Patrick Eaves took the puck from Ben Lovejoy in the Ducks' slot. Minutes later, Justin Abdelkader took it from Luca Sbisa behind the Ducks' net. Andrew Cogliano lost the puck at his feet to Johan Franzen at mid-ice.
It all added up to one big nightmare for Anaheim, which began the season 22-3-4. The Ducks have won one Stanley Cup Playoff series since it won the Cup in 2007.
"The way we started, the way things were rolling, the streak we had at home -- it was definitely something to build on," Perry said. "Confidence in here was pretty high. But this one's tough to swallow. In Game 7, it can go either way. It doesn't matter where you are."