It was going to be a comeback that chased all their Game 7 ghosts out of Honda Center, a kind of spring cleaning four years in the making.
The Ducks threw everything they had at the Nashville Predators over the final 40 minutes, only to end up haunted for another summer. The third-period images that will stick are Corey Perry’s losing the handle on the puck in the slot, Hampus Lindholm’s shot that bounced off the post and Ducks players leaned over in as exasperation following a 2-1 loss Wednesday in Game 7 of a Western Conference first-round series.
It was the fourth straight year the Ducks lost a Game 7 at home. Perry and several other players were still in uniform, with their skates on, afterward.
“It’s four years in a row,” Perry said. “A lot of guys in here that we’re playing hard for. It’s too bad we couldn’t get it done.”
Ducks players weren’t any closer to finding out the reason for their string of major disappointments.
“This was probably one of our best games of the series, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Andrew Cogliano said. “I don’t know what it is. I can’t explain it.
“I thought we were going to win this for sure. I thought we had the guys to push us through. We had a great mind-set. It didn’t feel like years before.”
Ducks forward David Perron is knocked to the ice by Predators defenseman Roman Josi during second period action in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A pile of players land on Predators goalie Pekke Rinne during a late push by the Ducks in the third period of Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf grimaces in pain after tangling with Predators forward Mike Fisher during third period action in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Predators goalie Pekke Rinne is congratulated by Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen at the end of a 2-1 Nashville win in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf skates off in defeat as the Predators swarm to the ice in a 2-1 win in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf tries to control the puck as Predators center Mike Fisher dives into him late in the third period of Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf is knocked to the ice by Predators forward Mike Fisher in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler hangs his head in defeat after Anaheim lost to the Predators, 2-1, in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner and Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson (38) leap to avoid a collision during the second period of Game 7.(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
Ducks forward Jamie McGinn shoots the puck off the crossbar as teammate David Perron tangles with Predators defenseman Shea Weber during second period action in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks forward Ryan Garbutt tries to get past Predator defenseman Roman Josi in pursuit of the puck during first period action in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm eludes Ducks forward Rickard Rakell, who slides into the boards during first period action in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks forward David Perron controls the puck as he is guarded by Predators defenseman Roman Josi in Game 7.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ryan Kesler shook the arena alive with a power-play goal 1 minute 45 seconds into the third period to pull the Ducks to within 2-1. It was the continuation of a long stretch from the second period on in which the Ducks dominated the game.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau predictably reunited Perry and Ryan Getzlaf midway through that period. Still, Jamie McGinn hit the crossbar on a wide-open look. Jakob Silfverberg broke his stick on a three-on-two chance.
For Boudreau, who is 1-7 in Game 7s, this was the toughest of the four Game 7 losses with Anaheim.
“With the way the score was, and the way we were pushing, I’d say yes,” Boudreau said. “Especially since how hard we had to push from November on, just to get to where we were. We did everything the hard way. We thought in the third period, we could still tie it up. And it just wasn’t to be.”
The Ducks should have tilted the ice in their favor after they killed a Nashville two-man advantage and subsequent remaining man-advantage in the first period.
Nashville threw a wet blanket on the amped-up crowd with the game’s first goal. Colin Wilson poked the puck to himself as Ducks defenseman Simon Despres lost track of it and broke in on Frederik Andersen to beat him with a backhand.
That was all Nashville needed to book a second-round series with San Jose while Anaheim ponders an uncertain future.
“Obviously there will be changes,” Kesler said. “There always is. It’s tough to see teammates go.”