The Ducks tempted fate again and still won.
Renowned for their third-period comebacks during the season and in each of their first two playoff games against the Winnipeg Jets, the Ducks did it again on Monday at MTS Centre. They pulled even with 2:14 left in the third period and grabbed a 5-4 victory when Rickard Rakell deflected a blast by Francois Beauchemin past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec 5 minutes and 12 seconds into sudden-death play.
That gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which will resume at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at MTS Center.
Fans initially stunned into silence by the loss quickly began a chant of “Go Jets go,” a fitting ending to a memorable night for the return of NHL playoff hockey to a city that had gone 19 years without it and thoroughly appreciated its return.
Just when it seemed as if the Ducks might have tempted fate once too often and lost their comeback magic, Ryan Kesler tied the score, 4-4, with 2:14 left in the third period.
Jakob Silfverberg, deep on the right side, threw the puck in front where Kesler was waiting. He didn’t miss, and in celebration threw his arms open wide toward a crowd that had been mercilessly booing him.
But to continue the suspense, the Ducks took a penalty for delay of game at 18:11 when Sami Vatanen’s attempted clearing pass sailed over the glass. Bryan Little hit the post but the Ducks got through the rest of the period, although 12 seconds of the penalty will carry to overtime.
A bad turnover by the Jets allowed the Ducks to tie the score, 3-3, at 16:04 of the second period.
Defenseman Adam Pardy, who had taken a hard hit from Ducks winger Matt Beleskey a few moments early and appeared woozy, simply gave the puck away behind his own net. Ryan Kesler swooped in and passed it to Jakob Silfverberg, who brought the Ducks even.
But again, not for long. And again, a giveaway was a key factor. This time it was Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler giving it away with a pass up the middle that was intercepted by Jets forward Bryan Little. He didn’t miss, drilling a shot past Frederik Andersen at 18:18.
Through two periods, the Jets held a 25-20 edge in shots and a 40-28 edge in hits.
A concerted push by the Jets produced the go-ahead goal and rekindled the roars at MTS Centre.
The Jets won a faceoff in the Ducks’ zone and kept the puck in; Drew Stafford’s shot was blocked but Blake Wheeler got the loose puck and got it past Andersen at 9:37, giving Winnipeg a 3-2 lead.
The Ducks paid for that too-many-men penalty when the Jets pulled even at 2-2, at 6:40.
Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen’s habit of leaving rebounds got him in trouble, as Winnipeg kept the puck in the zone and set up a shot for defenseman Tyler Myers at the right point.
Myers' blast deflected somewhere en route to the net and eluded Andersen.
The Ducks killed a penalty against Hampus Lindholm early in the second period and soon afterward took a 2-1 lead on a nifty setup from Lindholm to an unchecked Corey Perry, at 3:08.
Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien shoved Perry from behind and down to the ice after the goal was scored, a completely unnecessary move that got him a roughing penalty.
The Ducks couldn’t capitalize on the power play, though, and they took a penalty at 5:03 for having too many men on the ice.
The Ducks silenced the building by pulling even at 19:54 of the first period.
An energetic and persistent forecheck allowed the Ducks to regain possession of the puck in their own zone, with Andrew Cogliano leading the way. He got the puck to Cam Fowler, whose ice-skimming shot from the left circle eluded Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec and tied the score at 1-1.
The Jets had an edge in shots, 12-7, and in faceoffs, 19-12, in the first period. They also were credited with 19 hits compared to 11 for the Ducks.
But the most meaningful statistic is the score, and the teams are even there.
Riding the energy of the crowd, the Jets dominated the early minutes. The Ducks weathered that and created a few scoring chances but the Jets scored the game’s first goal, at 9:38.
Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen had made a save but couldn’t control the rebound. Adam Lowry pounced on it and fed the puck in the slot to Lee Stempniak, who had a pretty wide target with Andersen still at the right post. Lowry and Jacob Trouba got the assists.
The goal ignited new cheers from a crowd that was screaming with everything that went in the Jets’ favor and lustily booed the Ducks, especially Ryan Kesler.
As anticipated, the Jets did not make any lineup changes for Game 3.
With rookie center Chris Wagner out for an undetermined amount of time -- he did not make the trip to Winnipeg -- the Ducks moved forward Tomas Fleischmann into his slot. Wagner sustained an upper-body injury in the first period of Game 2 on Saturday.
This is Fleischmann's first appearance of the series. But he has plenty of playoff experience at his disposal, having appeared in 29 playoff games, all but seven with the Washington Capitals.
Ducks starters: Goalie Frederik Anderesen; defensemen Cam Fowler and Simon Despres; and Ryan Kesler centering Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey.
Jets starters: Goalie Ondrej Pavelec; defensemen Adam Pardy and Dustin Byfuglien; and Mathieu Perreault centering Adam Lowry and Lee Stempniak.
It’s fair to say that folks here are more than a bit excited about it. Tickets for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, sold out in less than five minutes when they went on sale last week. And there’s been a buzz building here since the Jets clinched a playoff spot, enhancing the already close relationship between fans and the team.
“There’s a connection here that’s different than any place I’ve coached,” Jets Coach Paul Maurice said after Monday’s morning skate.
The Ducks, who won the first two games of the series at Anaheim, were prepared to face a loud and hostile crowd Monday night. But they also looked forward to experiencing the whiteout that will be created by fans dressed in white swirling white towels in the air. It’s a revival of a playoff tradition started by the first Jets team, which moved to Arizona in 1996 and became the Coyotes.
“Part of me as a hockey fan and a hockey player appreciates this,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “It’s great to see a city rally like that and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Ducks will be forced to make a lineup change because center Chris Wagner sustained an upper-body injury during the Ducks’ 2-1 victory in Game 2 and didn’t make the trip here. Based on the morning skate it appears winger Tomas Fleischmann will be reinstated to the lineup and will play center, although Coach Bruce Boudreau said he had a few options there. Fleischmann played center as a youngster and for a few months in Washington while Boudreau was coaching the Capitals.
A face familiar to both Ducks and Jets fans was on the scene: Teemu Selanne, who began his stellar career in Winnipeg and was later traded to the Ducks. One of his sons, Eemil, posted a video of Teemu's skate on Saturday in Anaheim to Twitter.
If anyone can understand the psyche of the Winnipeg sports fan, it would be the Jets' Mark Stuart, the defenseman blessed with warrior-like qualities.
He started his career in Boston -- in 2005-06 -- and played 22 playoff games for the Bruins before getting traded to the Atlanta Thrashers during the 2011-12 season.
Hours before Game 3 in Winnipeg, Stuart talked about the similarities and differences between the two fan bases.
“Fans are passionate here,” he said after Monday’s morning skate. “Fans are passionate in Boston as well. The big difference, probably, in a place like Boston, they’ve got the Celtics and the Patriots to take their mind off the Bruins when the Bruins aren’t doing well. But here, we’re the team and the (CFL) Bombers … hockey is the No. 1 focus
“That makes it fun, makes it exciting.”