Corey Perry jammed home a rebound at 2:26 of overtime to send the Ducks on to the Western Conference finals with a 3–2 win over the Flames in Sunday night’s Game 5. The playoffs’ leading point-getter and a budding Conn Smythe favorite at the midpoint of the postseason, Perry returned after a scary hit late in the second period to deal the Flames their 22nd consecutive loss in Anaheim, while finalizing a matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Three thoughts on a dramatic finish and the end of the Flames’ improbable run:
1. Perry’s huge scare only heightened the heroics.
The Ducks are moving on, but Perry’s uncertain status after a collision with Flames center Matt Stajan late in the second period briefly put their entire Stanley Cup run in jeopardy.
Perry and Stajan were tracking the play from the opposite side of the neutral zone when Stajan turned sharply to head up ice. His hip collided with Perry’s right leg as he swung past him and Perry threw off his gloves in reflexive pain as he fell to the ice. He was immediately helped to the locker room once he was able to make it to Anaheim’s bench.
The injury initially appeared to be a hyperextended knee or something much worse, but Perry was back with Anaheim’s top line in the third period, and after a tentative first few shifts he didn’t appear hobbled down the stretch as the Ducks blitzed the Flames’ defense.
Did Stajan see Perry coming before the hit, and could he have avoided a collision with a little wider turn if he wanted to? None of that mattered when Perry stuffed home the game-winner from his knees after being cross-checked to the edge of the crease by Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman as Cam Fowler fired a shot from the point that goaltender Karri Ramo couldn’t handle.
“When it first happened, I couldn’t put any weight on it, but it’s the playoffs,” Perry said of his injury in a postgame interview with Brian Engblom of NBC. “You do what you gotta do, and I found a way to come back and play.”
Perry leads all skaters this postseason with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and sits second only to Alex Ovechkin with 42 shots through just nine games.
2. Not even a superhuman effort from Karri Ramo could hold off the Ducks.
Short of possessing the puck better and sustaining consistent offensive pressure, tasks that seemed futile from the opening face-off of this series, the Flames did all they could in Game 5 for Ramo, who took over between the pipes in Game 1 after Jonas Hiller allowed three goals on the first 14 shots he saw.
The Ducks emerged from the series-clincher with an eye-popping 47-19 advantage in shots and a 90-40 edge in attempts but somehow never led until Perry punched home the game-winner. That’s due to the Flames defenders who sold out to cover for Ramo’s aggressive goaltending style and cleared away countless juicy rebounds. The Ducks’ top two lines continually pressed forward with too much size and skill for Calgary to handle, even as the Flames scraped out a 2–1 lead through two periods.
While Perry was in the locker room, the Ducks responded with a furious surge of pressure to end the second period, a stretch that took on even more energy once he returned to the bench. With the Flames on their heels, Mikael Backlund was whistled for slashing, and Anaheim began the third period on the power play.
Less than a minute into the ensuing man advantage at the start of the period, Matt Beleskey tipped home a shot from Francois Beauchemin, becoming the first player in franchise history to score in each of the first five games of a playoff series.
3. Special teams helped the Flames briefly even the playing field.
The Flames needed something to go off script if they wanted to secure their first win in Anaheim since the 2006 playoffs, and they were rewarded with a flurry of penalties in the first period that limited the amount of time the Ducks spent exacting their apparent physical advantage in 5-on-5 play.
Midway through the first period, Ducks center Ryan Kesler drew blood on a high stick to the face of center Sean Monahan, and on the ensuing four-minute power play, Jiri Hudler sent home a slapshot from the right circle for his first goal of the series and fourth of the playoffs. Hudler had taken just two shots since leaving Game 1 early with an undisclosed injury, but he was sent into open space by a crisp pass from Wideman and beat Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen stick-side.
After the Ducks cashed in on the power play, they had an extended possession in Calgary’s zone that ended when the Flames penalty killers lost Kesler, who coasted into the slot alone and potted a neat feed from Jakob Silfverberg at 4:59 of the second period to even the score at 1–1 with his first goal of the series.
But Kesler’s goal took his line off the ice just as its defensive assignment, Calgary’s top trio of Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, hopped over the boards. Only 54 seconds later, Gaudreau notched his fourth goal of the playoffs with a hard wrister that took a deflection and fluttered past Andersen. That level of resilience will likely go down as the lasting impression of the precocious Flames who nearly sent a largely open-and-shut series back to Calgary.