EDMONTON -- It's been 20 years since the NHL has witnessed a comeback as epic as the one we all saw last night in Anaheim, but there is one man who has been a part of both of them: Todd Marchant.
Now an assistant coach with the Ducks, Marchant was a member of an Edmonton Oilers team that rallied from a 3-0 deficit with exactly four minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime in Game 3 of the 1997 Conference Quarterfinals against the Dallas Stars. Marchant, just 23 years of age at the time, even earned an assist on Andrei Kovalenko's goal with 2:16 remaining in regulation to make it a 3-2 score. The Oilers tied the game 12 seconds later and eventually won at the 9:15 mark of overtime.
Fast forward two decades and Marchant is seeing it unfold in front of the very eyes that lived it 20 years ago. These days Marchant is a mentor for a generation of players in front of him - a man who grinded out a 17-year NHL career that reached its peak in 2007 when he helped the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship. Marchant is a man that players can look up to and learn from because he carved out a niche for himself with a blue-collar work ethic and a belief that anything is possible.
"Looking back on that [Oilers] team, it had a lot of similarities to this team in the sense that they never felt like they were out of it," he says during some quiet time before the team's flight to Edmonton. "There was always a chance no matter what. Even when you're down by three goals with three or four minutes to go."
No deficit is insurmountable if you have the belief that you can overcome anything, he says.
"You get one, and momentum gets on your side. All of a sudden, you get two and you start thinking we have a legitimate chance at this. And finally getting the third one to tie it up, you can just feel everything rolling in the right direction."
Ryan Getzlaf began the comeback when he got the Ducks on the board with 3:16 remaining in regulation. Just 35 seconds later, Cam Fowler sent a wrist shot through traffic that Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot never saw. With the extra attacker on the ice in the closing seconds of the game, Rickard Rakell sent a desperation backhander on net that somehow snuck underneath Talbot, sending Honda Center into sheer bedlam. Corey Perry capped it off in double overtime by out-waiting Talbot to send the Ducks to an improbable 4-3 victory.
Did Marchant have flashbacks? "Oh, 100 percent," he says without hesitation. "I thought about it right away. Even after the game, I had to go back and look at it on YouTube to see how it all unfolded. It just shows resiliency with our group. No matter what the situation is, you always feel like you have a chance, having that belief you have the ability to win hockey games."
Let's not forget about another incredible comeback in Ducks postseason lore, and arguably the most important in the franchise's playoff history. It was Game 5 of the 2007 Western Conference Final and the Ducks were desperately trying to stave off defeat against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The series was tied, 2-2, heading back to Anaheim for Game 6. The winner, of course, putting the loser on the brink of elimination. Down by a goal, with the net empty at the other end and a 6-on-4 man advantage in the final minute of regulation, then-captain Scott Niedermayer forced overtime when he chipped a shot over Dominik Hasek with 47.3 seconds remaining in the game. It was a shot that perhaps only Niedermayer can make, his momentum carrying him downward as he let off the shot. Marchant was on the ice for the goal, throwing his arms up in jubilation behind the net.
It was a beneficial learning experience not only for him, but also for players like Getzlaf and Perry. Getzlaf, of course, is now the team's leader and captain, while Perry wears the 'A' and proves he can still deliver in the biggest moments.
"We've all been in situations like this," Marchant says. "You look at not only the players on the team, but the coaching staff and management. Everybody has been in these situations. You try to give the players as much information as you can so they can make the best decisions."
Rookies like Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore are gaining invaluable experience with every shift, as is John Gibson. Being able to go through these moments, Marchant says, can only benefit a player ragardless of age or experience. He also knows that, in the playoffs, every play matters.
"When you get into those situations, especially in the playoffs when you get farther along, there are no small plays," he says. "Everybody says you have to do the little things well. I don't think there are little things. Every play is crucial. Getting a puck out at the blueline or getting the puck in at the redline. Blocking a shot or making a good line change. All those, what people might say are 'little things,' can be crucial in a situation like that. You can't overlook any situation or play at any part of the game."
Marchant was the mastermind behind Anaheim's iconic slogan during its 2007 run to the Stanley Cup. He made t-shirts with motivational slogans on them, adding a word after every round. In the end, it read Destiny is Heart, Sacrifice and Passion. If the Ducks achieve the ultimate goal this year, on the 10-year anniversary of their Stanley Cup championship, maybe another word can be added to the slogan: Resiliency.