ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Defense has come so easily to the Anaheim Ducks’ checking line, the unit is honing its scoring touch.
A couple of late third-period goals from unexpected sources have the Ducks within two wins of Southern California’s first Stanley Cup.
Pahlsson figured out sharp goalie Ray Emery with 5:44 left to give the Ducks a 1-0 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday night and a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals.
“We worked really hard the whole game for that one, but we couldn’t get anything by Emery,” said Pahlsson, a finalist to be the NHL’s top defensive forward. “We just try to play our game, make it easy for us and hard for them. We got some goals and we don’t expect that every game. It’s fun.”
On Saturday, the series will shift to Ottawa for the first time since 1927, and the Senators will have to figure out how to break out of a scoring funk in the next two games to earn a trip back to Anaheim. Teams that won the first two games at home have captured the Cup 29 of 30 times.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 16 shots for his sixth postseason shutout and first this year. He leaped as time ran out and the loud duck call vibrated through a deafening arena in the Ducks’ fifth straight postseason win.
Emery finished with 30 saves for the Senators, who lost only once in each of their first three series.
“Anybody who writes this team off is crazy,” top-line forward Jason Spezza said. “We feel like we can get a couple games at home.”
After a turnover by Dany Heatley, Pahlsson carried the puck down the right-wing boards, worked around Daniel Alfredsson, and let go a shot past defenseman Joe Corvo, who had his back to him. That matched Moen’s winning tally that came with 2:51 left Monday night.
“We try to make them turn the puck over,” Pahlsson said. “That’s the best possible scenario for us, to get turnovers on the blue line.”
Ottawa gave the puck away 21 times, 11 by Alfredsson (6), Spezza (4) and Heatley (1). It was only the second time in the Senators’ 17 playoff games the trio was pointless. The team has gone 95 minutes, 24 seconds since Wade Redden provided a 2-1 lead in the second period of Game 1.
“For some reason, we’re playing differently than the way we’ve played,” Corvo said. “We have to find a way to get that feeling back.”
Along with Rob Niedermayer, the Ducks’ checkers have five winning playoff goals. They might have to work even harder in Ottawa, where the Senators have the last line change and will likely try to keep their scorers away from them.
“It’s going to be a different game,” Pahlsson said. “We’re going to have to change a lot.”
After a postseason low of 20 shots in the opener, the Senators managed less of a punch in Game 2.
“Our turnovers are creating offense for them,” Senators coach Bryan Murray said. “I’m not sure why we’re doing it, but we’re trying to create some offense and we’re not getting much.”
What the game lacked in goals, it didn’t fall short in exciting, tense play. Whether it was enough to bring viewers to TV sets is another issue. Game 1 on Versus got only a 0.72 cable rating and was seen in 523,000 households in the United States.
Emery was brilliant and had the added bonus of a few quick whistles as he tried to freeze the puck. Murray complained after Game 1 that the Ducks delivered a few extra stick jabs after the whistle and the message was received by referees Bill McCreary and Brad Watson.
Teemu Selanne nearly scored 3 1/2 minutes into the third when he chipped the puck to Emery’s right up to the height of the crossbar. The puck fell tantalizingly close to the goal line, but Emery gloved it in time.
Whether it was panic or progressive thinking, Murray started the game with Alfredsson without his familiar linemates Heatley and Spezza—a trio that combined for 28 goals and 60 points in Ottawa’s first 16 playoff games but had only two assists in the 3-2 loss Monday.
The group got back together for the Senators’ three power plays in the first period and scattered shifts during the opening two frames. But Ottawa looked little like the team that scored nine times in the first two games of the East finals against Buffalo.
When the Ducks put pressure on early in the third, they did it at the expense of Ottawa’s scoring line. The trio’s defense was no sharper than its offense. The unit was also on for the winning goal for the second straight game.
Of the Senators’ seven shots in the first period, five came on the power play and another came just after an Anaheim penalty expired. Ottawa mustered little more in the second when the sides played 5-on-5 until the final 2 minutes .
The Ducks sent 12 shots at Emery in the first and 14 more in the second, while holding Ottawa to 11 through 40 minutes.
Emery shook off any rust or nerves that troubled him in the opener and turned it into confidence that seemed to grow with every dangerous scoring chance he faced. The Senators tried to exert a physical style to match the Ducks’ hard-hitters but paid a price.
While the heavy checks landed, Ottawa also adopted another characteristic of the aggressive Ducks—the penchant for taking undisciplined penalties. Mike Comrie started the trend 2:17 in by sending defenseman Francois Beauchemin into the boards. Anton Volchenkov added another boarding penalty, when he drove Corey Perry into the glass behind Emery 6 minutes later.
Perry drew another penalty on Mike Fisher, who drove him to the ice twice.
The Ducks gave the Senators life by getting Ottawa’s potent power play on the ice. Charging and slashing calls against Shawn Thornton and Chris Pronger created a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:08 of the first period.
As they did in Game 1 during another two-man advantage, the Ducks kept the Senators at bay.
Giguere was the best penalty killer of the bunch, stopping three straight whacks by Spezza into his pads at the left post. He also frustrated the rest of the Senators with his share of sparkling stops after passes by Spezza.
The teams played 5-on-5 in the first period for only 9 minutes. … Alfredsson saw time on a shift with Fisher and Peter Schaefer. Chris Neil moved up to play with Spezza and Heatley. … The Ducks are 5-0 at home in their two finals appearances, 0-4 on the road.
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