Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau was certainly trying to remain optimistic, even if he didn't expect such a dramatic comeback.
"I wasn't confident at all," Boudreau admitted. "You're always hopeful ... but deep down, you don't really think it's going to happen."
Well, it did. And the Ducks are moving on in the playoffs.
The Ducks scored twice in the final 2:10 of regulation, and then Nick Bonino scored in overtime for a 5-4 series-clinching victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 on Sunday night.
"It's still hard to believe. I've got butterflies in my stomach," said Bonino, who also scored one of those late regulation goals.
"Scoring the winning goal in a playoff series is something you play in your driveway when you're a kid."
Bonino got the game-winner on a wrist shot from in front of the net 2:47 into overtime after getting a pass from Andrew Cogliano, and made sure the Ducks didn't need a Game 7 to advance in the playoffs for only the second time since winning their lone Stanley Cup title seven years ago.
"We've done it all year," Cogliano said. "We had games when we clawed back, especially in the third period.
"That's what the playoffs are all about, to keep clawing."
The home team won in each of the first five games, but the Ducks wanted to take advantage of the first opportunity they had to end the series.
Anaheim also led its opening-round series 3-2 last year. But the Ducks then lost twice to Detroit, including Game 7 at home.
Trevor Daley scored twice on breakaways for the Stars, the first goal coming after he got the puck charging out of the penalty box.
Daley, who also had an assist, is the only current player that was also on their last playoff team in 2008 for the Stars, who came so close to a deciding Game 7 in their first season under coach Lindy Ruff.
"Sometimes, hockey's cruel," Ruff said. "It was cruel, really cruel, to a group of guys that worked as hard as they possibly could tonight.
"There wasn't one guy that was a passenger."
Bonino skated around the from behind the net and got a puck over Kari Lehtonen's left shoulder to get the Ducks within 4-3 with 2:10 left in regulation.
"After they got the first one, we were just kind of on our heels too much," Stars forward Ryan Garbutt said.
Anaheim got the overtime-forcing goal with 24 seconds left after a wild scramble in front of the net with an extra skater and Lehtonen without his stick. When the puck trickled free, Devante Smith-Pelly pushed into the open gap for his second goal of the game for a 4-4 tie.
'I was just standing outside the net, and guys were whacking at it," Smith-Pelly said. "You do what you've got to do to score.
"Not every goal is going to be tic-tac-toe."
Corey Perry had the primary assists on both third-period goals for the Ducks, who will have to wait to see if they play San Jose or Los Angeles in the second round. Teemu Selanne assisted on the first two Anaheim goals by Smith-Pelly and Ben Lovejoy.
Ducks veteran goalie Jonas Hiller stopped all 12 shots he faced after replacing rookie Federick Andersen midway through the second period after Daley's second breakaway put Dallas up 4-2. He stopped only eight shots.
"This was a little more special for me," said Hiller, who won 29 games during Anaheim's best regular season ever. "It was a great feeling. I thought I had a couple of good stops right when I came in and that gave me confidence.
"When you get the chance, you get so much adrenaline going."
Cody Eakin had a goal and an assist for Dallas, while Lehtonen stopped 25 shots.
Dallas went ahead only five minutes into the game when Daley came out of the penalty box and skated toward the Anaheim net. After having to get around a referee to get to the puck pushed ahead by Shawn Horcoff, Daley scored.
Eakin scored a power-play goal five minutes later, a one-timer on a pass from Tyler Seguin to make it 2-0.
Smith-Pelly had a power-play goal with about two minutes left in the first period. But Garbutt scored a minute later.
Garbutt got a major penalty for spearing Perry and a game misconduct midway through the first period of the Ducks' 6-2 win in Game 5 on Friday night. He was fined by the NHL, but not suspended.