Ducks shake off another OT loss

After 17 grueling periods crammed into just four games, the Anaheim Ducks have no doubt they can play at hockey’s highest level with the Chicago Blackhawks. Heading into a pivotal Game 5 on Monday in the Western Conference finals, the Ducks also realize their two gut-wrenching overtime losses were missed opportunities to take out their veteran, playoff-tested opponents — and they can’t afford two more.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — After 17 grueling periods crammed into just four games, the Anaheim Ducks have no doubt they can play at hockey’s highest level with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Heading into a pivotal Game 5 on Monday in the Western Conference finals, the Ducks also realize their two gut-wrenching overtime losses were missed opportunities to take out their veteran, playoff-tested opponents — and they can’t afford two more.

Chicago evened the series at two games apiece on Saturday night with Antoine Vermette’s goal in double overtime.

The 5-4 win was the Blackhawks’ fourth OT victory of an increasingly charmed post-season.

Anaheim still hasn’t lost in regulation in the entire Stanley Cup playoffs, but Chicago has a knack for big moments that the Ducks haven’t matched in this series.

So the Ducks will keep hitting hard, skating well and hoping the late-game bounces — and a few more whistles — start going against Chicago.

“I think (the Blackhawks) know they’re in a series,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Sunday. “I mean, I don’t think they think they’ve had it very easy. It’s our job to continue to make them feel that way.”

Both teams spent Sunday flying to the West Coast and resting up for the next collision in an already draining series. The Ducks have followed through on their plan to batter the Blackhawks’ short-staffed defence with relentless checking and hard hits, but Chicago is surviving so far.

“We’re just going to keep with our game plan,” said Ducks centre Ryan Kesler, who has been matched against Chicago captain Jonathan Toews all series.

“I think it will wear them down. It’s going to wear them down. No human can withstand that many hits. We’re going to keep banging out there and going after them.”

The Blackhawks were credited with 52 hits of their own in Game 4, but that shaky defence also allowed three goals in 37 seconds in the third period, blowing a late two-goal lead. The defencemen playing heavy minutes don’t acknowledge any damage from Anaheim’s cumulative pressure: Brent Seabrook dismissed the idea with a shrug and a smile.

“I think it’s both ways,” Chicago winger Bryan Bickell said.

“They are wearing us down, but they’re getting tired from wearing us down.”