By Adam Brady | AnaheimDucks.com
Any Ducks fans who yelled, screamed, cursed, banged their fists on their armrests or threw their remotes late in last night's Game 5 can take solace in the fact the Ducks players reacted pretty much the same way.
Anaheim appeared to have the pivotal game in hand in the final minutes of regulation, until Chicago’s Jonathan Toews scored twice in a span of 1:12 (the tying goal on a bad-angle shot that had no business going in) to improbably send it to overtime.
As the Ducks headed to their locker room with 16 minutes between the end of regulation and the start of an overtime they never wanted, a feeling of anger permeated through the room.
“We were [ticked]. We were mad coming in here,” said Ducks center Ryan Kesler last night. “When this team gets mad we make strides on the ice. Obviously we don’t want to give up a lead, but it’s playoff hockey. It happens. The thing is we got mad and we came in here and finished it off.”
And it was Kesler who helped provide that finish, firing a shot from the slot that caromed hard off Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, allowing Matt Beleskey to bang in the rebound just 45 seconds into overtime. It gave the relieved Ducks a 5-4 victory and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Final.
|“When you have that lead and you see it evaporate, there is a lot of anger. You don’t hang your head, you don’t sulk. You get angry and you thrive on the situation. You know you can score goals on that team, and we had to go out there and prove it in overtime.” |
This morning, just before heading to the airport for a trip to Chicago for Game 6, several Ducks agreed that fury fueled them in OT.
“I think the main thing is, when we got in that locker room, we got a little bit angry, a little bit mad,” said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. “Bruce [Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau] has talked about that all year, that when we play angry and with a little bit of an edge, that’s when we’re at our best. We weren’t going to let that one slip away. I’m just proud of the guys for battling through it.”
Added Corey Perry, “When you have that lead and you see it evaporate, there is a lot of anger. You don’t hang your head, you don’t sulk. You get angry and you thrive on the situation. You know you can score goals on that team, and we had to go out there and prove it in overtime.”
Boudreau said he sensed the climate of his locker room during the intermission and, “I didn’t say too much when I went in there. You can hear the guys talking. I’m sure they wanted to hear my voice echoing their sentiments, and that’s pretty well all I did.
“The biggest thing I probably said was, ‘Don’t hang your head.’ You can sit and pout all day long, and if you do that, they’re gonna get the next one. But you can change all that by going out there and getting angry and doing what you do best.”
Boudreau was asked if he was worried his team was destroyed by the near-devastating turn of events. “I wasn’t really worried about them being destroyed, although that’s a big word,” he said. “I was really worried about their mindset, where sometimes it takes a little bit to get over, but at the same time, they let things go and then they just have to focus on the next shot, the next shift. I think that’s what we did."
The veteran-laden Ducks -- known all season for their comeback ability -- have bounced back from adversity countless times, and Boudreau was confident they could do it again.
“They’re mentally stronger than people think, and they’re focused on what’s at hand," he said. "They know what their ultimate goal is, and it’s a situation where they put things behind them. It is what it is, and all those clichés. You’ve just got to go forward.”
Going forward, the Ducks head to Chicago needing one more win for a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, which would be the third for the franchise but the first for Boudreau in his eight-year NHL coaching career.
“I give my head a shake sometimes. It is close,” he said this morning. “Sometimes you don’t realize it. You’re one game away from playing for the Stanley Cup. I try not to think about that, but it’s difficult. You’ve got to stay in the moment, and you’ve got to stay focused on what’s at hand. If you start thinking ahead, usually bad things happen. We’re trying to stay focused on what’s happening tomorrow.”
Perry, one of three Ducks remaining from the 2007 team that advanced to the Final and captured the Cup, knows what it will take to get there again.
“You only get this chance so many times,” he said. “You remember those times when you’ve had success and gone on to the next step. We have a great opportunity going into Chicago. Everybody in this room knows where we stand and what that game is going to be like. You have to believe you can win in that building. That’s the approach we’ve got to take. We’re excited for the challenge.”