NASHVILLE — By making their final impression before the Winter Olympics break another case of imposing their will at crunch time, the Ducks have nearly three weeks to savor their labor.
“That was us,” Ducks forward Corey Perry said of the three-goal, third-period binge that answered a Nashville Predators tying goal near the start of the period. “We didn’t sit back and wait. We kept going at ‘em.”
That style defined the Ducks in their sprint to the NHL’s best record (41-14-5) at the break. They lead Chicago and St. Louis by three points in the Western Conference, are up seven on San Jose in the Pacific Division and don’t have to travel east of Denver again this regular season.
Now they scatter, however, with the X factor being how the layoff will alter their momentum toward the heavy push to win the Stanley Cup.
Perry (30 goals) and center Ryan Getzlaf (29 goals) of defending Olympic champion Canada lead a seven-player Ducks contingent in Sochi, Russia, that also includes defenseman Cam Fowler of Team USA.
“Since I’ve been part of hockey in Canada, it’s been gold or bust,” Getzlaf said. “We’re going there with the same mentality.”
Forward Teemu Selanne and defenseman Sami Vatanen (Finland), forward Jakob Silfverberg (Sweden) and goalie Jonas Hiller (Switzerland) are equally as driven despite far higher odds.
Others are heading to vacation, such as center Mathieu Perreault (Maui) and forward Kyle Palmieri (golf in Florida), or focusing on conditioning or playing for minor league Norfolk (forward Emerson Etem).
Navigating the interruption — they won’t play again until Feb. 28 — with the remaining work is an inexact task.
In 2010, Getzlaf and Perry returned with gold medals, but Getzlaf’s ankle pain and Perry’s inexperience with the layoff couldn’t stop a Ducks losing streak that immediately followed with a playoff absence.
“Those things are learning curves,” Perry said. “The next time, you’ve been through it [and] learn from your mistakes.”
Fowler said he’ll lean on Perry and Getzlaf to ensure there’s no Olympic hangover.
“We have enough players who are about winning,” Hiller said.
Asked whether Olympic gold means as much as a Stanley Cup, Silfverberg said, “Of course not. This is what you work for all year. The Olympics is very special, but it’s not as big as all this work.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau watched his 2010 Washington Capitals win 15 of 20 games post-break.
“I can’t read the future,” Boudreau said about what to expect at reconvening. “Are they going to come back on a high, be ready to play? If they lose, is there a letdown? Or determination? Are they going to be exhausted?
“The living quarters aren’t what they’re used to, the pressure is immense. How hard will they play and practice?”
The Ducks resume play a few days after some in the NHL, so Boudreau said he’ll afford extra rest to players taxed in the medal rounds.
Despite speculation the Olympians were distracted by Sochi during the Ducks’ recent 4-6 slump and three-game losing streak before Saturday’s victory, some didn’t even know whom they were playing in Russia.
“I haven’t assessed any team, including my own,” Getzlaf said. “I know 10 [Perry] will be there on my line, that’s about it.”
Should their gold standards be met, however, certainly they’ll want the larger silver piece to complement it.