As they trudged back to their locker room after the third period, the Ducks were angry at themselves for being in a position they had urgently wanted to avoid.
Chicago center Jonathan Toews personally wiped out a two-goal lead the Ducks had built in a wild, back-and-forth game, scoring twice in the final 1minute 50 seconds to send Game5 of the Western Conference finals to overtime. It's a place the Ducks had been twice before in this series and had departed in defeat both times, and they didn't want to go there again.
"We were pissed. We were mad coming in here," center Ryan Kesler said. "When this team gets mad we make strides on the ice."
They got mad and then did better than get even, clawing out a 5-4 overtime victory that put them within one win of their first Stanley Cup Final berth since their 2007 championship season.
"Ducks hockey — it's not for the faint of heart," Kesler said with a weary smile. "We like to make things interesting in here."
Sometimes too interesting, as in their inability to hold leads of 3-0 and 4-2 Monday, and their tendency to become sloppy when they've built a big lead. But they were aggressive when sudden-death play began, putting together a second strong shift before they took off on a counterattack after Chicago's Bryan Bickell didn't get the puck deep into the Ducks' zone. Jakob Silfverberg made a fine pass to Kesler, whose initial shot was stopped, but Matt Beleskey was there to convert the rebound a mere 45 seconds into overtime.
Sudden-death play was short and, for the Ducks, very sweet, after enduring losses in triple overtime in Game 2 and double overtime in Game 4.
"We've played a lot of overtime and lost. And tonight we just needed to win, as simple as that," left wing Andrew Cogliano said. "I think guys knew that it was tonight or it would have been a pretty devastating loss, to be honest. That was as big as it gets for us. We needed that win."
They got it despite a spectacular effort by Toews, who scored twice after goaltender Corey Crawford was replaced by an extra player. "He's a good player," Kesler said of Toews. "Skilled player. Makes plays. We got running around too much there and left him wide open."
Not the best guy to leave wide open, though his second goal was on a sharply angled shot from the goal line that caromed in off the leg of Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen.
'Obviously we don't want to give up a lead, but it's playoff hockey. It happens," Kesler said. "The thing is we got mad and we came in here and finished it off."
The key is that they channeled their anger in the right direction, using it for energy and motivation instead of wallowing in self-pity. Coach Bruce Boudreau led them the right way with the right words of advice.
"We said it was our turn. Don't be upset and hang your heads. Get angry," Boudreau said afterward. "Get really mad because we threw it away a little bit. Just come back and do what you did in the first period. Things will work out."
They were flying in the first period, taking a 3-0 lead without much resistance. But the Blackhawks, making their fifth conference finals appearance in seven seasons, chipped away relentlessly to score once early in the second period and again late in the period. Patrick Maroon gave the Ducks a 4-2 lead at 14:45 of the third period, but it was far from over.
"You never can be trusting that the game is over before the horn sounds," Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen said. "You've just got to play it until the end and after that, what's the score."
Toews took over to score twice in that frenzied final few minutes of the third period before Beleskey, who had been moved down to the fourth line to start the game and was reunited with Kesler and Silfverberg to start the third period, converted Kesler's rebound.
"Relief," Maroon said of his emotions after Beleskey's goal. "Big smile, knowing that we needed this game bad and we wanted this game and we believed we could win this game. I think the guys feel good about it and I think the guys feel good about going into Chicago for Game 6 and being ready to play."
Maybe all the Ducks need is to stay mad.
"Yeah, that's the goal," Kesler said. "We know the situation. We know they're on the brink of elimination. They're going to play their best game and we've got to up our level too."