Playing ‘Ducks hockey’ means doing things the hard way all season

ANAHEIM — “It’s Ducks’ hockey,” said Ryan Kesler with a grin after the Game 5 win. “We don’t do things the easy way around here. We do things the hard way.”

He’s only partially kidding.

“We started off in a hole. We dug ourselves to even,” said Bruce Boudreau before Game 5. “Now we’ve got to dig ourselves even more out. We haven’t completed our task. We haven’t done what we wanted to. We end up losing here in six or seven, people are going to think we still didn’t dig ourselves out of a hole. The hole, as far as I’m concerned, we’re still in it.”

Perhaps things are slightly better now with the Ducks taking Game 5 by a score of 5-2 as the series shifts to Nashville for what could be a deciding Game 6. 

The final score doesn’t suggest it, but it was a relatively close game the entire way. The two teams were all even at zero until 5:47 mark of the second period.

Simon Despres lost the puck in his own zone as he fell to the ice. Colin Wilson slipped the puck out to Ryan Johansen who put a beautiful top shelf backhand shot behind Frederik Andersen.

You could feel the collective wind come out the building after the goal. The teams were pretty even to that point and the Ducks unable to capitalize on the two power plays they’d been gifted to that point.

Yet again, Anaheim was down, but proved to be not out.

Just 22 seconds later, David Perron wheeled around and fired a shot off from the blueline. The puck deflected off of Roman Josi’s leg, up and over the outstretched glove of Pekka Rinne, and into the back of the net.

“I don’t think we were playing our best [when Johansen scored],” said Perron. “Bruce [Boudreau] was trying to change things up, and he did a good job of waking guys up. It was a big goal, and then we followed up the next shift with [Ryan] Garbutt … It was fun to see him get rewarded”

Boudreau has opted to put Perron on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Garbutt in recent games.

Setup on a play by Getzlaf and Perron, Garbutt beat Shea Weber and Mike Fisher along the end boards to wrap the puck in past Rinne.

There were some in Nashville’s camp who thought the goal should not have counted; alleging the puck went under the net. The Situation Room reviews all goals and did not call down to the ice to halt the drop of the ensuing faceoff. Ducks closed out the second period with the 2-1 lead.

“I was just trying to put it on net as quickly as possible,” said Ryan Garbutt. “I’ve scored a couple goals like that before where you just try to put the puck on net from a bad angle. Sometimes you can catch the goalie off the post a bit. I was lucky for that.”

Somewhere between Game 1 and Game 5, the two teams appeared to flip personalities. 

In the first two games, the Ducks were the over-emotional team; reacting to non-calls and retaliating often. Now the Predators showed signs of coming unglued. Seeing Corey Perry skate away from a scrum is not something people are used to. He let Nashville have their own parade to the penalty box; tempting fate by giving Anaheim seven opportunities with the man advantage.

After goals by Sami Vatanen and Miikka Salomaki, the teams entered the home stretch with the Ducks up only by a goal. Mike Ribeiro gave Kesler a lumberjack slash across the hands to draw the minor with less than four minutes to go.

Anaheim needed only nine seconds to put the proverbial nail in the coffin. Cam Fowler scored on the power play for the 4-2 lead.

The Predators frustration was evident as Shea Weber took down Kesler by the face in the neutral zone. No penalty was called however, Kesler got his own (legal) type of revenge.

With the Nashville net open, Getzlaf and Kesler got in behind the defense. The captain let the other Ryan get the goal, who celebrated by pointing to the sky. No word on the symbolism behind it.

With his nose a little bit swollen and a smile on his face, Kesler reiterated, “It’s Ducks’ hockey. It’s what we do … I’m having a blast out there.”