This is the 20th season the Anaheim Ducks have been in the NHL and until Monday night, they had never, ever come back and won a game in which they’d trailed by four goals. Not even when they were known as the Mighty Ducks.
We’re not even going to guess at how many F-bombs Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau hurled at his team after the first two periods of the Ducks 5-4 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets, but we’re willing to bet there was a fair bit of salt to his language. Whatever he did, it worked on everyone from stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to lesser lights such as Patrick Maroon and Daniel Winnik.
And the while the Ducks didn’t officially win the Pacific Division title with their come-from-behind victory, they all but put a bow on it. These are the kinds of wins that define seasons. In the spaces of just 22 minutes and 32 seconds, the Ducks scored five goals, capped by the overtime winner by Stephane Robidas just 16 seconds into the extra period.
No, they didn’t officially win the Pacific, but they did something much more important. The Ducks made a statement that they’re not to be toyed with. For two periods, they looked about as bad as they have all season. But in the third period, they blitzed the Jets with 24 shots and imposed their will on them. By the end of the game, the Ducks were using their large bodies to cycle the puck constantly around the Jets zone and their speed to create plays off the rush. Their mobile and talented defense corps was jumping into the play and making things happen.
In case you haven’t noticed, the NHL has become something of a puck possession game of late. And there were not too many seconds during that third period during which the Ducks didn’t have control of the puck.
With the win, the Ducks took an enormous step toward avoiding either the San Jose Sharks or Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs. Because the Ducks are so far ahead of both the Sharks and the Kings in regulation and overtime wins with 47, the win last night assured them they will finish higher in the standings than the Kings, who blew a 2-1 lead in the third period and lost 3-2 to the Minnesota Wild. (Should the Kings win all six of their remaining games in regulation, they’d match the Ducks current total of 106 points, but would have only 42 wins in regulation or overtime.)
They also whittled their magic number for winning the Pacific down to just nine over the Sharks, meaning any combination of points gained by the Ducks and lost by the Sharks adding up to nine will give the Ducks both the Pacific Division title and California bragging rights for the regular season. As an aside, there has never been a season in which all three California teams each had 100 points. That will happen if the Kings pick up six points in their final six games of the campaign.
For most of the season, the thought of the Ducks not winning the Pacific was preposterous. In fact, the thought of them not winning the Presidents’ Trophy, a bauble for which they still have a legitimate shot, bordered on absurd. But the Ducks haven’t been near as dominant in the second half of the season as they were in the first. Since the Olympic break, they’ve compiled an 8-4-3 record, while the Kings have gone 13-4-0 and Sharks 10-4-3.
It’s not as though the Ducks were floundering – or foundering for that matter – but they had certainly been experiencing a dose of reality lately. They certainly picked a good time to have the most explosive comeback in franchise history. And those 49 wins, which also established a high-water mark for the franchise, will come in handy as well. They’ll help as the Ducks watch the Kings and Sharks beat up on each other in the first round of the playoffs.