By Arpon Basu
WINNIPEG –- The Anaheim Ducks are playing a dangerous game and they know it.
The Ducks are ahead 3-0 in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series against the Winnipeg Jets despite trailing in the third period of each game.
The fact the Ducks have been able to come back in the third period should come as no surprise considering they were the best team in the NHL when it came to winning games they trailed after two periods. They won 12 of those 35 games in the regular season, a winning percentage of .343, considerably higher than the League average of .206. But even then, the odds were against the Ducks winning those games.
They've won three in a row against the Jets, but Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau knows this is not a trend that can continue, especially not Wednesday when they try to close out the series at MTS Centre in Game 4 (9:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports, FS-W).
"The rules and laws say it just can't continue," Boudreau said Tuesday. "We're fortunate that it has, but it's not saying it's going to continue [Wednesday]. But we're pretty good with the lead when we get a lead. It's just that we've had a hard time getting it."
The Ducks trailed Game 1 2-1 at the second intermission before Corey Perry scored twice and assisted on Ryan Getzlaf's insurance goal in the third period of a 4-2 win.
Anaheim was down 1-0 midway through the third period of Game 2 when Patrick Maroon tied the game at 10:43 and Jakub Silfverberg scored with 21 seconds remaining in the third to give the Ducks a 2-1 win.
In Game 3 here Monday, Silfverberg struck again when he set up Ryan Kesler for the tying goal at 17:46 of the third period before Rickard Rakell scored at 5:12 of overtime.
In all, the Ducks have played with a lead for 11:21 in the first three games. The Jets have led for 68:19 but trail 3-0.
"Obviously it's a great thing coming back all these times in the third period, but I don't think we want to get used to it," Silfverberg said. "We'll take it, but every once in a while we want to have a lead going into the third period and try to hold that lead instead of chasing all the time."
Kesler said he sees no problem with the route they've taken to reach the brink of the second round.
"We win. We don't care how. We just win," Kesler said. "We've been doing it all year. We win in different ways. The majority of times we are down in games, but for whatever reason that's when this team plays its best, when we're down and we're pushing. That's one thing this team can do, is score goals at timely opportunities. We've been doing that in this series."
Though the goal-scorers often get credited for comebacks, there is something happening at the other end of the ice that's allowing the Ducks to win.
Goaltender Frederik Andersen's numbers through the first three games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are quite good by any measure: a 2.27 goals-against average and .923 save percentage that should be allow the Ducks to win on most nights.
But Andersen's play in the third period has been perfect. The Jets have 27 shots in the third period and Andersen has 27 saves. One save Andersen made Monday with 61 seconds remaining in the third period of Game 3 against Bryan Little gave the Ducks the chance to win the game in overtime.
"I think it just brings out the best in every one of us, we know we have that one goal [deficit] we've got to go after it," Andersen said. "That's how we play our best hockey, when we really push, we're getting down low and forechecking and going after them.
"We've got to find a way to do that in the first two periods as well. Hopefully we can start doing that [Wednesday]."
It likely won't be a problem for the Ducks in this series with so much margin for error, but this tendency to trail late in games could become a big one later on in the playoffs if it continues.
Andersen would prefer if the Ducks could start that preparation for the next round right after Game 4 on Wednesday.
"You've got a team on their heels and we have our foot right on the throat where we want it, so we've just got to finish them off," he said. "We don't want to give them any hope."