3. Working Overtime, Part 1
The 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks were the underdog that everyone wanted to root for. They were a team that captivated people’s imagination, and the way they played, it wasn’t a one-man band, it was a collective team effort.
Another thing that the Mighty Ducks team was known for was working overtime, literally, overtime. In the 2003 Cup run, the Ducks were a part of 5 overtime games in the 3 previous rounds, 2 games against the defending Cup champions (Paul Kariya and Steve Rucchin-series-winning goal.) Another 2 against the Dallas Stars, the top seed in the West (Petr Sykora and Mike Leclerc), and another overtime game against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference Finals, once again, Petr Sykora, the flair for the dramatic (another 1-0 win).
With the way the team was rolling, the Anaheim Ducks were given a dose of reality when they headed into New Jersey. They got shutout three to nothing twice, falling behind two games to none, heading back to the Pond. Game 3 was a do-or-die type game, a loss and it would be season over, and the Ducks would be one game away from being swept. A win and the dream of winning the Stanley Cup would be kept alive.
Game 3 was a back and forth tussle after Chouinard scored the game’s first goal, Sandis Ozolinsh broke a 1-1 tie with the infamous Martin Brodeur gaffe to give the Ducks the lead back. After the Devils tied the game in the third period, the game eventually went into overtime. Everyone was on pins and needles.
The Devils and their fanbase was ready to begin nailing the coffin shut with an overtime win. The Ducks and their fanbase was hoping that a hero would rise to the occasion. Thankfully, the latter beat the former, as Adam Oates, a veteran center, won the faceoff and the late Ruslan Salei scored the overtime winner, giving the Ducks life in the series.
For Salei, it would be only his 2nd goal of the series, but as Gary Thorne from ABC said it best, “Salei, Overtime Game Winner, The Ducks are back in it!!” Though the Ducks fought hard to get back into the series, what they didn’t know was that two days later, they would be back at it again.