Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau called it "a blip" that his team's normally solid defensive play fractured during the third period of its 5-4 double-overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, and maybe that's all it was.
A lapse. A bad bounce. A fine play by Brad Richards to set up Patrick Kane for the power-play goal that tied the game at 4-4 and dented the Ducks' penalty killing again. A show of championship mettle by the Blackhawks, who tied the series at 2-2 after scoring three times in the third period, matching the number of goals the Ducks had allowed in the third period of their previous 12 postseason games.
"You'd like to think it's going to go on forever, that you're not going to get scored on. But sometimes, yeah, you make mistakes," Boudreau said Sunday. "I mean, the fortunate part for us is we also played very good offensively in the third period and in the first overtime. We just couldn't score a goal."
But the Blackhawks, 4-0 in overtime in these playoffs after winning twice in double overtime and twice in triple overtime, see it differently.
They believe they've defied the Ducks' attempts to batter them into submission, and it's difficult to argue. Duncan Keith played 40 minutes 39 seconds Saturday, his third playoff game with 40 or more minutes' ice time and second in the last three games, but he never seemed winded. Niklas Hjalmarsson played 39:13, his third game of 35 minutes or more. Brent Seabrook played 32:03, his fourth game with more than 32 minutes. "I feel fine," Seabrook said.
All of which doesn't mean the Ducks should stop being physical, but they can't count on that as their most decisive weapon.
Maybe equally important, the Blackhawks said they're now confident they can beat Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen, who had held them to a total of five goals in the first three games.
"I thought the last game was a big step to find the back of the net against Andersen. You see that he is kind of human because he's been standing on his head as of late," left wing Bryan Bickell said before the team left for Anaheim and Game 5, to be played Monday at Honda Center.
Let them think what they want, Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. It's belief and execution that matter, and he said the Ducks haven't lost faith in themselves.
"I feel we'll be fine. We had four on their goalies. The series is 2-2. It's going to come down to [Monday's] game," he said. "Whoever will win that battle will feel confident going into Game 6. I don't really care how they feel."
What matters, he said, is how the Ducks rebound after Saturday's loss and reestablish themselves on home ice.
"We always talked, as a hockey team, never lose two in a row, never lose two in a row," he said. "You talk about that all season. Now, especially that we're in the playoffs, this is not what we want to have happen. We found a way to respond all year long.
"We've had some tough losses during the season and found a way to bounce back the next game to win that game. I think that shows all the guys in the room care, all have a lot of character to come back out of those games."
For those looking at omens and numbers there are these factoids: Each time the Blackhawks won a multiple-overtime game this spring, they lost the next game. But since 2008-09 they're 14-0 in Games 5 and 6 of series that were tied after four games. On the Ducks' side is their 6-1 home playoff record, which might have been 7-0 if not for the shots that clanged off the post and crossbar in Chicago's triple-overtime win in Game 2.
Like Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville, who benched center Antoine Vermette in Game 3 and looked like a genius for restoring him in Game 4 after Vermette scored the winner, Boudreau said he's considering a change or two and cited energetic center Chris Wagner and veteran forward Tomas Fleischmann as candidates. It's probably sheer coincidence, but the Ducks are 4-0 with Fleischmann in the lineup. Boudreau also said he was mulling a change on defense, though it might be difficult to put in James Wisniewski for the first time in these playoffs.
"It's not a time to panic, it's a time to believe," Boudreau said.
And a time for two fiercely competitive, evenly matched teams to test those beliefs one more glorious time.