The deeper the Ducks get into the playoffs, the more confounding they become.
It has become part of their personality — maddening, exciting and oddly formulaic. They took an awful start again. Their goaltending was shoddy. They had to overcome another deficit.
Somehow they came out with a 5-3 victory against the Nashville Predators on Sunday in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals to tie the series 1-1 going to Nashville for Games 3 and 4.
"Everybody says we go about it the hard way, but as long as we get the job done, I think that's all we're really worried about and focused on," goalie John Gibson said. "Whether it's the hard way or whatever other way, as long as we get the results."
Sunday fit right in with the awkward route they take to those results. They erased deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 and managed through a four-goal second period in which two usually stingy defensive teams opened up the game like a broken dam.
Nick Ritchie's third-period goal was the game winner on a night the Ducks' depth shined. Ondrej Kase got his first career playoff goal, Sami Vatanen his first goal of the postseason and 12 players made the scoresheet.
The lead horses also pulled. Ryan Getzlaf tied his career playoff high with three assists and ranks second in playoff scoring, and Jakob Silfverberg scored his ninth goal to tie Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the NHL playoff goal-scoring lead in a victory the Ducks desperately needed.
"It was huge," coach Randy Carlyle said. "I don't care. In sports, it's critical. We don't want to put the pressure that you people [media] would put on it, the exclamation mark you would put on it that it's the end all."
The Ducks could practically see the end after they fell behind 2-0. But Vatanen beat goalie Pekka Rinne with one minute left in the first period to stop the bleeding at Honda Center.
The Ducks then unclogged the neutral zone, activated their defense and didn't allow Rinne to play the puck much. Silfverberg buried Rickard Rakell's feed into an open net after Rinne couldn't stop a dump-in behind his goal, and Kase scored on a loose-puck conversion to tie it 3-3.
The Ducks, who had led for fewer than 24 minutes in their previous five games, took a 4-3 lead into the third period on Ritchie's shot from the left circle that glanced off Rinne's mask. Getzlaf made a soft touch pass to Ritchie to set up the chance.
Getzlaf set up Antoine Vermette for the empty-net goal to seal the victory. Just as the Ducks planned it? No, and they trudged out the same reasons for their unorthodox success.
"We're very calm," Vatanen said. "We don't go down. We just keep doing what we're doing and we have a good trust."
It was difficult to trust Gibson early. He lost track of the puck on James Neal's power-play goal in the first period in a comically bad sequence that gave Neal an open net.
"I just lost sight of it for a second," Gibson said.
Gibson was also faked out of the net by Viktor Arvidsson on Filip Forsberg's goal in the second period. Gibson and his teammates made up for it with a last-stand defensive scramble with about six minutes remaining in which they blocked or saved four Nashville tries.
"I think we received a little bit more than any coach would like from that standpoint, that you have all your players having the blocked shots," Carlyle said. "But, again, that's what playoff hockey is. It's the will over the skill in those situations."