ANAHEIM — Whenever the whistle blows and the music stops, you’ll see the Ducks gather at their bench.
Then you’ll see two or three guys break free and skate away.
Chris Wagner often does that. He averaged nine minutes, 21 seconds this season and yet is expected to go from 0 to 60 whenever Coach Randy Carlyle summons him.
Ice time is where you find it.
“You’ve got to make sure your legs are still there,” Wagner said.
It’s the life of a fourth-liner, a guy who is expected to play the opponents to a stalemate until the headline players catch their breath. You do more watching and thinking than playing.
But sometimes there’s a moment like Wednesday night, when Carlyle watched Wagner play his usual shift early in the second period of Game 7.
Wagner and linemates Jared Boll and Nate Thompson put together a couple of hits and a shot and some zone time, easily ignored by the patrons and press, easily forgotten in what came next.
But the coach remembered.
“That shift was the turning point of the game,” Carlyle claimed.
A few minutes later Andrew Cogliano scored to tie it 1-1, and the Ducks spent the rest of the period skating as if the Oilers were orange cones. Nick Ritchie scored in the third period, the Ducks won the game, 2-1, and the series, 4-3. When the alarm clock sounded Thursday, it began ticking toward Friday night’s Game 1 with Nashville.
But then the schedule has been compressed all season. And Wagner says he’s rested enough.
“We had a couple of good shifts in a row,” Wagner said. “We just tried to grind, do what we do. It’s been the M.O. for our whole team this year.
“And then they didn’t call many penalties, so we were able to get out there regularly and get some continuity. If you do have a chance to do something, you do it. You’re probably not getting that chance again.”
Seven Ducks have gotten the BLT goal, the one that Breaks the Last Tie, in the club’s eight postseason wins. Wagner has one of those, with a quick shot that ambushed Cam Talbot in a Game 3 win at Edmonton.
If you’ll recall, the Ducks had just lost a 3-1 lead. Wagner’s impromptu blast made it 4-3. Anaheim won, 6-3.
Since the Oilers had taken Games 1-2 in Anaheim, that was fairly pivotal. The Ducks became only the ninth team in playoff history to win a Game 7 after losing the first two at home, an elite group of 8.7 percent.
“For me, I just think we have a strong belief this year and a stronger will,” Wagner said. “We weren’t going to lose those games when we got behind. There was no way. I definitely think we’ve got good leadership all along, but Getz (Ryan Getzlaf) has kicked it into a gear that’s out of this world.”
Ducks general manager Bob Murray took pains to praise his “great amateur staff” that keeps young talent flowing. All six defensemen Wednesday night were 25 or younger.
Wagner is also 25, a fifth-round pick who, at that point, had only played for the South Shore Kings of Foxboro, Mass.,…