ANAHEIM – If it looked as if Andrew Cogliano hadn’t slept, it was only because he hadn’t.
Not a wink.
Cogliano and the rest of the Ducks arrived Saturday morning at Honda Center as if in a dream-like state, shuffling along slowly with bleary eyes and hands firmly grasping coffee cups as they reconvened for a bus ride to their chartered flight to Edmonton for Sunday’s Game 6 of their second-round series.
“Surreal,” Cogliano said of “The Comeback on Katella,” the Ducks’ dramatic rally that turned a three-goal deficit with a little more than three minutes to play into a 4-3 double-overtime victory that gave them a 3-2 lead over the Oilers in the best-of-7 series.
“It’s over now,” Cogliano said.
Now, it’s closing time.
Now, the Ducks have a chance Sunday to eliminate the Oilers and advance to the Western Conference finals for the second time in three seasons. Now, they can use the momentum and confidence they generated with their miraculous Game 5 victory as a springboard to the next round.
History isn’t on the Ducks’ side, though.
Game 6s have been every bit as troublesome as Game 7s for the Ducks in recent seasons. They have squandered 3-2 series leads four times in five series dating to a first-round loss to the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. The Ducks’ lone Game 6 victory was in the opening round over the Dallas Stars in ’14.
The Ducks’ Game 7 defeats to the Red Wings, Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators are headline-grabbers, and the stuff of nightmares for veterans such as Cogliano. But the Ducks’ Game 7 failures couldn’t have happened without Game 6 defeats.
Have the Ducks’ learned their lessons from past failures?
There are plenty of reasons to believe so, starting with the play of Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who started their comeback with a goal and finished it with an assist on Corey Perry’s game-winner 6 minutes, 57 seconds into the second sudden-death OT period.
Getzlaf has been an uncontrollable monster, with eight goals and 15 points in nine playoff games. The Ducks have followed their leader, who has five goals and 10 points in five games against the overmatched but determined Oilers.
“This is an opportunity for us to take the next step,” Cogliano said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Edmonton is certain to be in a sour mood for Game 6 after melting down Friday in the closing minutes of Game 5. The Oilers were upset after the Ducks became the first NHL team to win a playoff game after scoring three times in the final four minutes to force OT.
Rickard Rakell’s tying goal, with 15 seconds left in the third period, infuriated the Oilers, who believed goaltender Cam Talbot was interfered with and the goal should not have counted. But a video review concluded the Ducks’ Ryan Kesler was pushed into the goalie by the Oilers’ Darnell Nurse.
TV replays available to reporters in the press box also indicated that to be the case.
The Ducks shrugged and went about their business Saturday, content to put the past in the past.
“Get a good start, get a good start, that’s the key,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said, repeating himself for emphasis. “Don’t get intimidated by what’s going to go on, because there’s going to be lots of emotion, lots of fired-up people and they’ll be trying to feed off that.
“That’s natural in a home building.”
So far, the Ducks have been the champions of Alberta, winning two games in Calgary during their first-round sweep of the Flames and then taking Games 3 and 4 against the Oilers in Edmonton’s Rogers Place after losing the first two at Honda Center.
The Ducks are far from satisfied.
They understand they’ve accomplished little so far.
“We’re going to take the attitude that we have to better than we were last night,” Carlyle said. “It’s not like we played poorly last night. We had a poor period (in giving up three goals in the second), and that seems to be our nemesis right now.
“The last couple of games we’ve had 20 minutes that we’re not really proud of. The first 20 we were pretty good, but we didn’t put a crack in the armor and they scored two quick ones and then the third one and everything went flat. The building went flat. We went flat. We started to get frustrated.”
Slowly but certainly, the Ducks regrouped and pulled off a rally for the ages.
Now, it’s back to Edmonton.
Closing time is at hand.
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