ANAHEIM – Maligned often for his lack of production in the regular season and into the playoffs, Corey Perry found his scoring touch when it was needed to end an epic Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Perry scored his first goal of the series at 6:57 of the second overtime and the Ducks made an amazing late comeback at the end of regulation worth it in a shocking 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.
The Ducks were on the brink of elimination as they were trailing, 3-0, deep into the third period. It seemed as if Game 6 on Sunday in Edmonton would be one to stay alive and force a deciding seventh game back at Honda Center, where they had already lost twice and seemed destined for a third.
Meanwhile, the Oilers were in sight of the conference finals after a decade-long absence from the Stanley Cup playoffs.But these Ducks are managed to dip into their well of resilience when they appear ready to be counted out.
Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler scored 35 seconds apart within the final 3:16 of regulation and Rickard Rakell’s dramatic goal with 15 seconds left capped a stunning comeback and forced overtime. And after the first 20 extra minutes saw the Oilers get the better of the scoring chances, the Ducks converted on theirs.
Rakell kept the possession alive in the Oilers’ zone by winning a puck battle with Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse. Getzlaf got the puck with some space and gave Perry a pass as he headed toward the net. The winger made a move on Oilers goalie Cam Talbot and slid the puck in past his outstretched left skate.
It was a moment of elation for the Ducks and one of redemption for Perry, who had just 19 goals during the season. His only other goal in the playoffs was the Game 3 overtime winner against Calgary, which also capped a wild rally from three goals down.
Getzlaf started the comeback with a rocket of a slap shot that took another direction on Oilers goalie Cam Talbot after it skipped off teammate Leon Draisaitl’s block attempt in front. And then after pulling goalie John Gibson for an extra attacker, Fowler went crossbar down with a shot from the point.
The Ducks, in quick-strike fashion, now had an actual look at forging an improbable tie with 2:41 still on the clock. Gibson came off the ice again for another 6-on-5 advantage and Rakell got the puck, touching off a wild celebration on their bench and throughout the arena.
For a moment, the celebration was premature. Oilers coach Todd McLellan challenged the goal, claiming Talbot was interfered with during a mad scramble for the loose puck in front. Ryan Kesler appeared to have a hold of Talbot’s right pad as Rakell found the puck and got it past the goalie.
A review upheld the goal. It was determined that Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse initiated the contact by shoving Kesler into Talbot before the puck crossed the goal line. And the celebration was on again, stunning those who had left early after deciding that the Ducks were done.
Until Friday, neither team has yet to win a game in front of sellout crowds begging to be sent home in a state of delirium. By virtue of winning the Pacific Division for fifth consecutive year, the Ducks can be home again for a Game 7. If they win Sunday, they don’t need to deal with that demon.
And their inability to win a close-out Game 6 on the road has proven just as frightening. The Ducks just want the chance to write their postseason wrongs. They gave themselves that with a rally for the ages.
“I think with this team especially, we know that there’s going to be ups and downs in the playoffs,” Ducks center Ryan Kesler said, speaking before the game. “We’ve talked about it since the beginning. We’ve done a good job. When we go down, there’s no panic. We just go about our business and try to get the next one. And the next one after that.
“I think with the momentum swings that there are in playoffs, if we just stay at even keel and keep plugging along, we’ll be fine.”
The line of questioning about facing deficits within individual games but Kesler’s reference can now include the big picture. A dominating first period went unfulfilled and then the Ducks came unglued when the second began.
Connor McDavid has dazzled them and left his imprint but Leon Draisaitl continues to inflict the most pain. Drasaitl has feasted on the Ducks all season and his one-time shot off a pass from Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom squeeze through a sprawling Ducks goalie John Gibson just 15 seconds in.
In Game 1, Draisaitl factored greatly in the Oilers getting a jump on the series with a goal and three assists. The season total – eight goals and eight assists in nine games – will give Ducks coach Randy Carlyle a headache.
McDavid then took the lead. He used his stick to bunt in Mark Letestu’s pass back to him, making the Ducks pay for penalties by Nick Ritchie and Cam Fowler that gave Edmonton a 5-on-3 power play. The Ducks have allowed at least one in eight of their nine playoff games.
A potential turning point briefly gave the Ducks hope as Ritchie deflection in Brandon Montour’s point shot slid in through Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. But the apparent goal was immediately waved off and a review upheld the original call, with Ritchie being determined to have redirected the puck with a high stick.
The Ducks were already in scramble mode, having gotten out of their structure after going all-out in the first to break the Oilers but unable to crack Talbot. A two-goal lead became three as McDavid sprinted up the ice with his teammates on a 4-on-1 fast break.
Drake Caggiula made Edmonton coach Todd McLellan look prescient for moving him up to the right side of McDavid and having Leon Draisaitl at center to deal with a red-hot Getzlaf. Caggiula applied the finish to McDavid’s perfect pass for a 3-0 lead.
Not only did the Ducks lose the special teams battle but they’ll look back at the inability to solve Talbot in the first. They racked up 13 shots and controlled possession throughout but the Oilers’ goalie offered a big response to the 10 goals he allowed in Games 3 and 4.
Coming off a massive Game 4, Getzlaf was looking to have a similar start. But one great chance was foiled by Talbot. And when he was awarded a penalty shot at 9:12 of the first for getting held by Milan Lucic on a potential breakaway, Getzlaf missed high and wide on his golden opportunity.
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