ANAHEIM, Calif. — A theatrical playoff series gets an appropriately grand finale when Anaheim hosts Detroit in Game 7 on Sunday night.
Although the Ducks and Red Wings could be stressed by this test, most are treating it as an opportunity and a reward for nearly two weeks of exhausting work.
After all, somebody gets to be the hero.
“If you can’t enjoy it, then you’re in the wrong sport,” Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said Saturday. “These are situations that many of us have been in, but they’re fun. You reach back on those things, and then just remember to embrace the moment and be ready to play.”
After four overtime games, several clutch goals and plenty of wild momentum swings, the second-seeded Ducks have one last chance to finish off the resilient Red Wings, who have one final opportunity to nudge past the talented Pacific Division champions.
Detroit has stayed in this series with three overtime victories, including Game 6 on Friday night, although Anaheim had to rally late just to force two of those overtimes.
Every game has been in the balance in the third period, so both teams know what they’ll face in the deciding game at a frenzied Honda Center.
“We were talking about that on the plane (after Game 6),” Anaheim’s Corey Perry said. “When you’re a kid, you go into the streets and you’re playing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s the fun part of hockey. You dream about Game 7, and to be the guy to step up is special.”
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler has learned a bit about playoff pressure in his first three NHL seasons, and he watched the Red Wings in countless big games while growing up in the Detroit suburbs. The 21-year-old is looking forward to his first taste of the toughest situation any team can face.
“It’s more exciting than anything,” Fowler said. “We’re familiar with them, and they know us, so it’s about harnessing your emotions and playing. I’m looking forward to it. No butterflies, just excitement.”
The teams have alternated wins throughout the series, with Anaheim taking a one-game lead three times, only to watch the Red Wings catch up.
The Ducks would be preparing for a tantalizing second-round matchup with Los Angeles this weekend if they hadn’t allowed three overtime goals by the Red Wings, who will face Chicago in the second round if they hang on.
The Ducks are playing the fifth Game 7 in the franchise’s two-decade history, but just the second at home.