ANAHEIM — They lost in regulation and in the end did so convincingly, at least on the scoreboard, surrendering two empty net goals.
But NHL playoff games don’t have to go to overtime to have the feel of sudden death.
“It was just like it ended abruptly, you know?” forward Andrew Cogliano said Thursday. “Why it hurt so much is, in Game 6, we probably played one of our better games of the playoffs. When it ended, you couldn’t believe it.”
Three days later and the Ducks were still sorting through their bruised emotions and battered bones, fighting to accept their season-shuttering 6-3 Western Conference finals loss Monday in Nashville.
It was stunning, honestly, seeing the dazed look that lingered in the eyes of a group of professional athletes trained to coldly move on, always, no matter the depth of the adversity.
Stunning and refreshing, too, these Ducks so committed to the same kind of cause that, in the previous four postseasons, ended with Game 7 home losses of varying degrees of pathetic.
A consistent level of investment, even three rounds into the playoffs, isn’t always a certainty, either. As recently as after the team’s Game 5 loss Saturday, captain Ryan Getzlaf lamented the Ducks’ lacking “compete level.”
But anyone who thought this team was ready for its season to end would have been knocked as foggy Thursday as the Ducks themselves.
More than a couple players appeared to be genuinely floored that they were here for exit interviews with club officials rather than for practice with their teammates.
“Right now, it’s too early,” Ryan Kesler said. “I’m sure I’m going to sit and think about it and lose sleep over it. Right now, I’m just trying to digest it.”
Yeah, digest it, like a pound cake made of crushed pavement.
Kesler just finished his 13th NHL season. He will turn 33 before he plays his next game. He has been a major award winner in this league and annually is among the NHL leaders in boos generated in enemy…