The more things change, the more they stayed the same for the Ducks in their playoff opener Thursday, but in a good sense for a group that has inexplicably failed to play to its talent level in its past few playoff ventures.
The team that endured some terrible second periods during the regular season but so often managed to rally and save the day in the third pulled off that feat again Thursday in its playoff opener against the Winnipeg Jets at Honda Center. The Ducks paid for their 4-2 victory in sweat and bruises -- the two teams totaled 83 hits in a lusty, well-paced game -- but the Ducks prevailed by showing the resilience they had displayed all season while earning the No. 1 seed in the West.
The Ducks, who set a regular-season record by registering 18 wins in games they had trailed at some point in the third period, scored three times in the third period Thursday. They had been outscored by eighth-seeded Winnipeg, 1-0, in the second period.
The carryover of the Ducks' ability to rally in the third period was a welcome event for center Ryan Getzlaf, who contributed a goal and two assists Thursday.
"That's good," Getzlaf said, smiling. "I didn't think we played a bad period in the second. We didn't score a bunch of goals but we played well and we did the right things and we stuck with it and got rewarded."
They got three power plays -- which doesn't seem like a lot but is a veritable bounty for them -- and capitalized on two. Corey Perry got the first one, tying the score at 2-2 at 1:09 of the third period when he batted a rebound past Ondrej Pavelec, and Getzlaf rifled the second power-play goal home at 16:55 to clinch the victory.
The Ducks had ranked 28th in the NHL during the season with a 15.7% success rate on the power play, making their man-advantage spree on Thursday that much more remarkable.
"We came in with a game plan and we executed all night long," Getzlaf said. "At the end of the night, we got rewarded on a couple of power plays and guys doing their jobs in front of the net."
One of those guys was Perry, whose four-point performance set a single-game playoff high and tied a playoff franchise record set by Joffrey Lupul on May 9, 2006, and matched by Andy McDonald on April 25, 2007.
Perry was his usual pesky self around the net when he scored the power-play goal that brought the Ducks even, and he was there again when he scored the go-ahead goal, which had to be verified through video review when the on-ice officials didn't see that his second whack at a rebound had sent the puck completely over the goal line.
"I thought Pears did a great job tonight," Getzlaf said, using Perry's nickname. "He didn't go for goals when he shouldn't. He played a good, honest hockey game and took pucks to the net. He was a factor every time he was on the ice and that's great."
Perry said the fact that he and Getzlaf could lead the team in the playoff opener was crucial, and he's right. Perry, Getzlaf and defenseman Francois Beauchemin are the only players left from the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team -- Beauchemin left and came back -- and they have keenly felt the frustration of not getting close to the Cup since that triumphant journey.
Perry, Getzlaf -- who won 14 of 23 faceoffs -- and left wing Patrick Maroon (one assist, three hits) on Thursday helped launch the Ducks on the first leg of what they hope will be another long and happy journey through the playoffs.
"This is the time when we want to step up and we want to lead by example, whether it's on the score sheet or doing different things," Perry said. "And tonight was a good game for our whole line. I thought we played well.
"To get going in the right direction we needed this first one and we'll just keep looking forward."
It is only one game, and it was a rugged, teeth-jarring contest between two big teams. "It was everything I thought it was going to be," Perry said.
He was everything they needed to pull off another third-period comeback and put them in a happily familiar situation.