In a league that puts a premium on youth, Ducks right wing Corey Perry is an old man at nearly 32. His coach, Randy Carlyle, noted that age is a factor that few of Perry's critics took into account when assessing Perry's modest regular-season goal production.
"One thing you can't stop is that clock," Carlyle said.
Oh, but Perry did stop the clock Friday — the game clock, at least. And when it halted, the Ducks had a 4-3 victory and were within one victory of advancing to the Western Conference finals. They will take a 3-2 series lead to Edmonton for Game 6 on Sunday, when they can clinch it with a win.
Patiently taking an extra second after he was set up with the puck alone in front of Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot, Perry flicked a shot past the beleaguered goalie 6 minutes and 57 seconds into the second sudden-death overtime period Friday at Honda Center. Perry's second goal of these playoffs — and second overtime goal — completed an unprecedented rally by the Ducks, who became the first team to win a home game in this series.
"There's funny things going on all over the place," Perry said of the playoffs in general and this series in particular.
Among those odd occurrences is Perry's goal-scoring revival. He also scored the winner in sudden-death play in the Ducks' 5-4 victory over Calgary in Game 3 of their first-round sweep, capping the Ducks' comeback from a 4-1 deficit.
"Pears is a big-time player. Always has been," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said, using his longtime linemate's nickname. "He's finding a groove and he's playing well and he's playing well away from the puck and that's a big thing."
The Ducks became the first team in Stanley Cup playoff history to force overtime when trailing by three goals with less than four minutes to play in regulation. With goaltender John Gibson pulled in favor of an extra skater, the Ducks erased the damage done by a terrible second period and pulled even on goals by Getzlaf at 16:44, Cam Fowler at 17:19 and Rickard Rakell at 19:45.
The Oilers protested the validity of Rakell's goal on the basis of goaltender interference but the call on the ice of a good goal was upheld after a review. Oilers Coach Todd McLellan agreed that Ducks forward Ryan Kesler had been pushed into Talbot but contended that Kesler had wrapped his arm around Talbot's leg and left the goalie unable to stop Rakell's shot.
"I don't know what interference is anymore," McLellan said.
After a tense first overtime in which the Oilers had fewer shots than the Ducks but had more dangerous scoring chances, Perry ended it in the second sudden-death period on the team's 64th shot, set up on a pass from Getzlaf. The two had played on separate lines most of this season but were reunited by Carlyle during Game 4 at Edmonton. Carlyle put them together again on Friday, counting on their combined experience and poise as well as Perry's ability to come through in the clutch.
"He scored big goals for Team Canada, Olympics, world championships, so why would you think that he can't do it now?" Carlyle said. "There's a perfect example of a guy reaching back and getting the job done."
Getzlaf, who played a whopping 34 minutes 42 seconds, shares the playoff goal-scoring lead with eight and ranks second in points with 15. But he said he didn't deserve credit for delivering any locker-room motivational speeches at any point Friday.
"Everybody keeps asking me about this message. I've got to come up with one," he said. "Just keep doing what we're doing. Our group is resilient."
Can't argue with that.
Until then, the Oilers had been dominant. Precocious but not playoff-tested, down a couple of defensemen because of injuries and put on the defensive by two penalties and a penalty shot that was awarded to Getzlaf, the Oilers could have folded in the first period Friday. Instead they scored three times in the second period, silencing the sellout crowd at Honda Center.
"They put the puck in the net. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes that came back to bite us. Their goaltender made some big saves early," said Getzlaf, whose penalty shot at 9:12 of the first period sailed high and wide of the net. "Their goalie played great at the start and we just found a way."
That they didn't find the way until the clock was ticking down made their rally dramatic and triggered roars from a crowd that had been preparing to accept defeat.
"One thing this group has done well is that when we get one we've been able to follow it up. You get one, get two and then we were scratching and clawing at the end," Getzlaf said.
At the end, they mobbed Perry and hugged each other as the weary Oilers watched and stewed. The Oilers' young legs carried them pretty far, but Perry's old legs took the Ducks across the finish line.
"I don't know if there's a recipe," Carlyle said of the comeback. "I don't know if there's something to hang your hat on other than you cannot quit believing, in any situation."