Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has managed to steer the team back towards the win column during the two-game Western Canada swing, but coming home to the Honda Center Monday night, there was one more message he felt he needed to instill in order to see the wins go from two, to three, to four and more.
The Ducks taste in music tends to veer more towards pop but maybe they’ve thrown in a little French Montana.
"When get goals scored on us, we unravel a little bit," Bruce said. "Take the Tampa game for instance: When they scored one, they scored two right away, and then they scored the third and they scored the fourth. We’ve got to be able to be mentally tougher and say, ‘Ok, they scored. Let’s stop the bleeding right there and get back into our game set.’"
The message appears to have been received. Case in point: Anaheim’s 4-3 shootout win over the Detroit Red Monday night.
The Ducks showed an uncharacteristic inability to come back in the last month, but it was something that Boudreau felt was correctable. He wanted to see how the team responded when trailing, and the result was positive.
Pavel Datsyuk single-handedly put the Ducks in an 0-2 hole in the second period. And even after Anaheim scored three straight and Riley Sheahan answered with a game-tying goal late in the third, they stayed the course.
"Down 2-0 going into the third, we didn’t quit. We kept going," said defenseman Francois Beauchemin. "They did a good job the first two periods of keeping shots down and blocking shots. We couldn’t find a way to get shots through, and finally in the third we did and it paid off.
There’s lots of reasons why teams slump in the dog days of the season, and a team that’s already blown past the rest of the division will inevitably start to think about the postseason even when there’s still plenty of hockey left in the regular season. But the most troubling aspect of their recent slump seems to now be behind them.
"I thought it turned when we didn’t panic getting down by two," said forward Andrew Cogliano. "We learned our lesson in terms of times during the season when we’ve gone down two or three and lost our composure and taken penalties trying to win the game in five minutes. I thought tonight we stuck to the game plan and kept forcing them, putting more pressure on them. You get one and you start feeling good, the crowd gets into it and you get a couple more."
Beauchemin made the big play on the shore sheet with a goal to take the lead in the third period, while defenseman Hampus Lindholm and center Ryan Kesler made the two big plays you won’t see on the box score.
Lindholm stole the puck from Justin Abdelkader on a last-second rush to sen the game into overtime. Ryan Kesler won a faceoff against Datsyuk on the power play to send the game into a shootout.
"I thought tonight we stuck to the game plan and kept forcing them, putting more pressure on them." – Cogliano
"He was our best player," Boudreau said. "Sometimes it doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, but he was winning faceoffs and he did a great job. Datsyuk is a such a great player, so when you can control him – and I know that sounds weird considering he’s got two goals – but when Kesler was out there he was controlling him. And that’s a tough job to do."
This game had a playoff-type atmosphere and looked every bit the part. The Ducks found a way to capitalize on the loose change that goaltender Jimmy Howard left out and how to weather adjust when the Wings took away their ability to skate freely. The small things and the adjustments are how good teams become great in the playoffs.
The Pacific Division leaders have 83 points for the second-most in the league. The Red Wings (77) are still third place in the Atlantic Division. The panic from their 1-4-1 stretch has dissipated. The Ducks are back to looking like the contenders.
"Detroit is one of the best teams in the league and they were a bigger challenge than in the last two games," Beauchemin said. "I thought we responded the right way."