Column: Ducks move on to conference finals when Corey Perry, of course, scores

Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau and right wing Corey Perry share a fist-bump after his game-winning goal in overtime against the Flames.

Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau and right wing Corey Perry share a fist-bump after his game-winning goal in overtime against the Flames.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Of course it was Corey Perry who scored the overtime goal against the Calgary Flames that put the Ducks in the Western Conference finals.

Who else could it have been besides Perry, who took a hard hit to his right leg in the second period and crawled off the ice in apparent agony, only to come back and poke the puck past a magnificent Karri Ramo two minutes and 26 seconds into sudden-death play Sunday?

The Ducks’ 3-2 victory, which ended the series in five games, was the result of infinite grit and much gritting of teeth, of promises made and kept by a team that had exited the playoffs the past two seasons earlier than its collective talent suggested it should have.

“After the last couple seasons, it’s been tough,” said Perry, who leads all playoff scorers with 15 points, including seven goals. “We came in with the attitude of business first. There’s a lot of character in that room, and they’ve all stepped up.”


Perry, still looking sore after getting his leg looked at, got the job done in overtime during a scramble in front of the Flames’ net. Perry, who somehow had the strength to reach up and return fans’ high-fives as he walked into the locker room after a postgame interview at the Ducks’ bench, simply would not be denied. Neither would the Ducks, and that’s a sign of not only their depth up the middle or on the wing but in character.

“We did what we had to do,” center Ryan Kesler said. “We came out for the third and just dominated.

“It’s another step on the ladder.”

There were many layers to this victory, including the Ducks’ ability to out-comeback the famously resilient Flames.

Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau reached the promised land of the conference finals for the first time in his NHL coaching career, a journey that wound through Washington and three-plus seasons with the Ducks before he developed the right touch and the organization put the proper balance of speed, brawn and depth at his disposal so he could guide a team beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Bruce has dedicated his life to this. It’s great to see him do this,” said left wing Matt Beleskey, who tied a club playoff record by scoring a goal for the fifth straight game.

“I’m not sure how high he can jump, but I’m sure he was jumping for joy.”

For the Ducks, this will be their first trip to the West finals since 2007, when they won the Stanley Cup. They’ve had a good amount of talent the past two seasons but lost a seven-game first-round series to Detroit in 2013 and fell to the eventual champion Kings last spring in a seven-game second-round series. “It’s a huge step for [Boudreau] and the organization,” Perry said.

The Ducks’ reward for their hard work is a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks, who have been resting since they completed their surprising sweep of the Minnesota Wild. This will only get harder for the Ducks, but that is as it should be in the Stanley Cup playoffs, probably the toughest postseason tournament in professional sports.

But before they look ahead to what’s in front of them, the Ducks deserved a moment to savor their accomplishments of sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in the first round and then fending off the young and rapidly maturing Flames, who surely will contend for the Cup in a year or two.

The psychological barrier conquered separately and together by Boudreau and the Ducks was skyscraper-high. If the Ducks had not advanced, Boudreau’s job might very well have been in jeopardy. The Ducks roster, reconfigured last summer to add the gritty Kesler — and tweaked just before the trade deadline to add Simon Despres to fortify the defense — might very well have undergone another overhaul this summer if this team fell short again.

But Boudreau and the Ducks will march forward to meet Chicago, a progression they earned through their resilience and perseverance, through the work of first-line players and fourth-liners and the uncanny calm of goaltender Frederik Andersen.

“It’s going to be a great series,” Perry said. “They have a lot of speed, a lot of skill.”

But so do the Ducks, who shouldn’t be content merely to get this far, even if most of them and Boudreau haven’t been here before.

Twitter: @helenenothelen