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Ducks' bid to reach Cup Final falls short with Game 6 loss to Predators

Window for veteran players Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler getting smaller after losing Western Conference Final

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn't the first player to utter these words, and he most certainly won't be the last.

After a dizzying and often dazzling run in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs ended, Getzlaf stood in the dressing room at Bridgestone Arena on Monday and captured the visible frustration and raw emotion in a few words.

"This is the worst feeling in hockey, when your season is over and you're not holding the Cup," Getzlaf said after a 6-3 loss to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. "It doesn't matter what round it is. It still hurts."

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Ducks series coverage]

 

The Ducks were without their No. 1 goaltender, John Gibson, who sustained a hamstring injury in Game 5. That put the focus on backup Jonathan Bernier. It was Bernier's first-ever playoff start, and despite some shaky moments, the Ducks were still well-positioned late in the third period.

"It definitely hurts worse when you play that good and you come back," said center Ryan Kesler, who had one goal in 17 playoff games. "You know this team has showed resiliency all year and to give up a goal like that, it [stinks].

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Kase buries Getzlaf's smooth dish

"We played good enough to win tonight. It didn't happen. They have guys banged up. We have guys banged up. Personally, I don't think the better team won tonight. It doesn't really matter what I think. They got the victory. They're moving on and we're going home."

In a sense, Game 6 was a microcosm of the Ducks' postseason. Time and time again, they relied on their resiliency and considerable survivor skills. They tied the game after trailing 3-1 on defenseman Cam Fowler's goal at 8:52 of the third period, and had another power-play opportunity at 11:57.

But the Predators killed off the penalty and promptly went ahead for good when forward Colton Sissons completed his hat trick at 14:00.

"It was a good shot," Bernier said. "It was pretty close to the post and in, top-shelf. But that was the game, and I've got a way to make that save."

Bernier said he found out after the morning skate that he would be starting Game 6. The Ducks had been optimistic Gibson had recovered enough to play, and he took part in the morning skate.

"After the morning skate, he indicated he wasn't available," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "So we went along the premise he was going to be able to play, based upon how he felt [Sunday]. Then he took the ice today and he indicated to us he was not available."

The playoffs almost turned into a mini-series of "Survivor," with the Ducks and Predators seemingly losing another player each game.

Nashville was without centers Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher. Anaheim had been without forward Patrick Eaves since the second round against the Edmonton Oilers and another key offensive cog, forward Rickard Rakell, was injured in Game 4.

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Fowler beats Rinne through traffic

And the Ducks' power play struggled throughout the conference final. They were 0-for-10 during the final three games.

"There's a lot of guys playing through a lot of stuff," forward Andrew Cogliano said. "Those are the guys that I'm proud of in the room, getting shot up to play and they're putting it on the line.

"We're missing two 30-goal scorers. At the end of the day, I think injuries happen and they're missing their best player as well. They won the series. They're a good team.

"I just don't think they're much better than us."

As Getzlaf spoke with reporters in the dressing room, his linemate, Corey Perry, sat still in his stall, nearly frozen for quite some time. He finally spoke, barely above a whisper.

"Everybody has got bumps and bruises this time of year," Perry said. "You can go over to that [Predators] dressing room and they'll say the same thing."

Getzlaf and Perry won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. Each turned 31 this month and knows the championship window doesn't stay open forever.

Kesler, 32, is keenly aware of that too; he played in one Stanley Cup Final in 2011 with the Vancouver Canucks and twice reached the Western Conference Final with the Ducks, in 2015 and this season.

"Chances go," Kesler said, "and you never know if you are going to be back here again."

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