Six early goals erased all memories of Anaheim’s remarkable Game 5 win.
You could almost smell the narrative soup stirring after the Anaheim Ducks stunned the Edmonton Oilers in Game 5.
It was a comeback for the hockey ages: Anaheim erased a 3-0 deficit with three minutes left in regulation and then completed the job in double-overtime. Four straight goals. Three straight series wins. Webbed foot to the neck of the inexperienced Oilers, now down 3-2 in the series.
Robbed of all momentum despite their competitive spirit, there was nothing left for the Oilers to do in Game 6 but disappoint their fans at home. Fans thrilled to be back in the midst of playoff hockey but teased with so much more.
See? The narratives were right there. The series win was right there. The only thing left was the period at the end of the sentence. Right?
The puck had barely dropped in Game 6 before Edmonton snatched the pen away from the Ducks and threw it all the way back to Southern California. The Oilers routed the Ducks in the first period with five goals, chased starter John Gibson, and added another in the second period’s opening minute for good measure. A 7-1 win for the Oilers, and a 3-3 series heading back to California for Game 7. It was over before it began.
The Ducks, to their credit, didn’t seem surprised by this possibility. Cam Fowler had some morbid foreshadowing before Game 6, telling NBCSN’s Brian Boucher how important it was for the Ducks to start strong. You can’t win hockey games the way they’ve played.
Well. Fowler’s fears were well-founded: Anaheim had led first in this series only twice, in Game 1 and Game 3. Before Game 6, the Ducks owned a remarkable .750 win percentage when trailing first in these playoffs. That’s higher than any other team. During the regular season? The Ducks were No. 18, a much better team with leads to maintain than with deficits to chase.
Saying the Ducks weren’t ready for Game 6 seems like an oversimplification. It ignores a lot of factors. The Oilers’ confidence at home. Todd McLellan’s ability to get his players to focus after tough games. The absolutely electric atmosphere inside Rogers Place that ratcheted up about ten decibels with every successive Oilers goal.
The Ducks have been on their heels at the outset of games all series. This time they couldn’t stop the bleeding. The cascade surged too fast, and the Ducks got swept back down to Anaheim licking their wounds. None more stinging than their pride.
Doubting Anaheim’s bounce-back ability is impossible after what they pulled off in Game 5. But Game 6 happened. We all saw it. Game 7 approaches with a huge question.
How many times can one team swim upstream?