Ducks’ Perry on beating Predators: We ‘just keep digging’

At this point, the Anaheim Ducks might not know what to do with a five-goal lead.

The underlying narrative of the Ducks’ 2014-2015 season has been their ability to overcome adversity and win in tight situations. The Ducks have now won their league-leading 20th one-goal game and are the only team that hasn’t lost by the same margin in regulation yet this season.

Sunday night at the Honda Center, they tied Nashville with just over two minutes left on the clock. They went into overtime and Ryan Kesler played the shootout hero in a 4-3 win. It sounds easier than it looks for other teams but maybe not for the Ducks.

Par for the course, as far as this team is concerned. A blowout would just be too easy. 

"Those are boring," joked center Ryan Kesler. "For everyone."

The Ducks are winning by the slimmest margin at a remarkable rate but they’re also beating teams they have a good chance of seeing in the playoffs. They’ve won games in overtime against St. Louis (49 points) and Nashville (54, first place Central Division) this week and held off Pacific Division foes Vancouver and San Jose in the last two. 

"Good teams know how to win in the playoffs," Kesler said. "Playoffs are one-goal games. If we know how to win them now, it’s going to make it that much easier in the playoffs."

The Predators did their best to keep the Ducks uncomfortable and they did for a few brief moments.  

A relatively new team the Ducks hadn’t seen this season, they effectively possessed the puck and fired hard. The Ducks took too many penalties and they failed to kill off two. The Preds attempted to break through the Ducks defense and they did get to goaltender Frederik Andersen a few times, but with a 2-1 lead, the play of Anaheim began to change.

It’s an almost nightly transformation. Suddenly the level of intensity heats up to playoff-like levels and the Ducks become physically relentless. The checking increases, they win the dirty battles on the boards. 

They’re comfortable playing from behind and they move into another gear when the game is tied. There’s no sense of panic on the ice or on the bench.

"It’s not the way we draw it up," said winger Corey Perry. "But the guys in here just keep digging. It doesn’t matter if they’re down by one or more, you see them get in there. Our D are down there making plays and creating chances and that’s the way we have to play."

Halfway through the season, Anaheim and its 58 points lead the league. It can’t get much better, right?

But the Ducks were in the very same place at the very same point last season as well. Ask their pals up in Los Angeles how that turned out? 

As the old saying goes, it isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish, which is why the Ducks didn’t go too optimistic or too pessimistic when asked to evaluate themselves at the mid-way point. 

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau took the realistic approach. 

"We’ve got lots of stuff to clean up," he said. "Let’s face it, our special teams have got to get better. I think our 5-on-5 play is pretty good but our special teams, our penalty-taking has to got to get better. Our balanced scoring has got to get better. 

"I think we’re only about halfway where we want to be in two and a half, three months."