Once more, with Game 7 feeling.
The Ducks constructed their season and earned the top seed in the Western Conference by responding strongly to slippages exposed over the 82-game grind.
Now, after the proud Chicago Blackhawks executed with precision and emotion, outworking the Ducks to win Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, 5-2, Wednesday night at the United Center, Anaheim has to fix itself again.
If the Ducks can, with the support of a sold-out Honda Center on Saturday night, they'll advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
"We shot ourselves in the foot tonight," Ducks forward Patrick Maroon said. "That's why it's best-of-seven. We've got to be ready … new day, new start.
"This is what we played 82 games for, what we worked our butts off for — to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs. It's a best-of-one now."
The Blackhawks forced the decisive showdown by blitzing the Ducks for three goals in a 3-minute 45-second span of the second period, with Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith contributing an assist on each score.
The 3-0 chokehold led to the visitors' first regulation loss in their 15th playoff game.
"We lost our composure for the first time, I thought, in the playoffs," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They scored the one goal [and] it was like, 'Aah, what's going on?' We started scrambling all over. They got the momentum. We lost our composure."
The Ducks have lived this before. For the third consecutive postseason, they lost a Game 6. In 2013, they were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the first round at home. Last season, the Kings routed them, 6-2, in Game 7 of the conference semifinals at Honda Center.
"It's going to take every guy in the room," Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri said. "We need to go outwork them. It's to go to the Stanley Cup Finals … if you don't bring your A game then, I don't know what to say."
Anaheim took some solace by pulling within 3-2 on a second-period goal from Maroon and one by defenseman Clayton Stoner 1:57 into the third period. Then, during a frenetic, uninterrupted stretch of play that lasted 8:13, right wing Corey Perry just missed a power-play shot at an open net.
But Chicago, the Stanley Cup winnerin two of the last fiveseasonsand appearing in its third consecutive Western Conference finals, improved to 10-4 in elimination games and 12-1 in Game 6s since 2009. Center Andrew Shaw scored two goals in the final 3:32, including one to an empty net.
"To come down from three goals, especially against a team like that — they're experienced, they know what they're doing — we didn't get it done," Ducks first-line center Ryan Getzlaf said.
Getzlaf shouldered blame on a night he had a minus-three rating, took one shot on goal and had three others blocked.
Uncharacteristically, the Ducks were routed in the faceoff circle, 33-17.
"We've got to be better than that," Getzlaf said. "We've got to regroup."
En route to a 51-win regular season, the Ducks took honest looks at their weaknesses and effectively adapted.
They tightened up the reckless passing and sloppy defensive attention that contributed to some one-sided defeats and losing skids, winning eight of their first nine playoff games until this series, a classic that's included three overtimes.
"We need to be better, more physical, play Ducks hockey, which is throwing pucks at [Chicago goalie Corey] Crawford, getting in his eyes and getting those second and third opportunities," Maroon said. "We got away from that tonight."
Get back to it, or go home.
Ducks center Ryan Kesler expressed confidence Anaheim's physical pressure — they've outhit Chicago, 304-209, in the series — will decide the series. "Every hit that we've had, it's all for this game," Kesler said. "That's why we invested physically. And it's all going to add up for Game 7."