ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson made 31 saves - and one exceptional pass.
Roloson stymied Anaheim's offense, and chipped in with an assist Friday night as the Oilers opened the Western Conference finals with a 3-1 victory over the Mighty Ducks.
After Roloson's clearing pass led to Michael Peca's goal in the first period, Ales Hemsky scored the go-ahead goal in the second. Todd Harvey added an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
With top defenseman Chris Pronger off for elbowing, Roloson set up the Oilers' short-handed goal with a backhanded clearing pass, lofting the puck high and far down the ice. Peca broke behind the Ducks, picked up the puck and went 1-on-1 with Ilya Bryzgalov, beating him with a backhander underneath the rookie goalie's right leg.
Asked about his perfect "fastbreak lob," Roloson grinned and said, "I used to do that in college all the time. Fortunately, Michael got the jump on some of their guys."
Peca said he realized he had to turn on the speed.
"It's not something you practice, but you know he has the ability to get it to center ice. Once he turned his hand over I knew I had to get up ice," Peca said.
"We had never connected on it. He knows I am going to look for that ice and I know he's going to try and get the puck in that spot if he has the time to do it."
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said the play was not a fluke.
"Their goaltender is strong on his backhand, and we didn't read the situation properly where we allowed Peca to get in behind us," Carlyle said.
"I guess it caught us by surprise."
The 36-year-old Roloson, who has resurrected his career since Edmonton acquired him from Minnesota in March, was with the Wild when they lost to Anaheim in the 2003 playoffs.
In the opener this time, Roloson was especially effective at smothering the puck when the Ducks had traffic in front.
Edmonton, which had just one day off between the end of its series against San Jose and the beginning of the best-of-seven conference finals versus Anaheim, still matched the Ducks in energy, speed and checking. All that added up to the Oilers' fifth straight victory after they fell behind the Sharks 0-2 in the previous round.
Anaheim hadn't played since completing a sweep of Colorado on May 11 and vowed that rust wouldn't be a factor once the puck dropped for the opener against Edmonton.
The victory was the Oilers' first in a series opener in this postseason.
"Obviously, we've had success losing them, but you much prefer the opportunity that we have with the win tonight," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "We have a pretty significant opportunity coming back here on Sunday to win both these games."
After Game 2 in Anaheim, the series shifts to Edmonton where the Ducks haven't won since 1999. The Western Conference champion will play for the Stanley Cup against Buffalo or Carolina.
Peca opened the scoring for Edmonton at 18:35 of the first, and the Ducks' Andy McDonald evened it 28 seconds later. The goal was Peca's third of the playoffs, and he also scored in the Game 6 clinching victory over San Jose.
Bryzgalov made 24 saves, but had little chance of stopping the two shots that got by him.
Hemsky gave the Oilers a 2-1 lead at 11:36 of the second period with his fourth goal of the postseason. Ryan Smyth's slap shot bounced off Bryzgalov and into the air. Hemsky, slicing across the crease from the right side, batted the puck past the goalie's right shoulder, too quickly for Bryzgalov to react.
The Oilers had barely finished celebrating when McDonald got off a slap shot from beyond the left circle that sailed past Roloson and into the net. The power-play goal, with Pronger still in the box, was McDonald's second of the playoffs.
The Oilers have won 17 of 21 meetings with Anaheim, including a sweep during this regular season when they were tied or trailed after two periods of each of the four games.
Notes: The Oilers are the only former Stanley Cup champions still alive in the playoffs. They have won the Cup five times, the last in 1990. ... Hemsky's goal ended a streak of 39 straight power plays the Ducks had killed dating to Game 5 of their first-round series against Calgary. ... The Ducks have home-ice advantage because they were seeded sixth, two notches above the upstart Oilers - the bottom seed in the Western Conference playoffs. ... The Ducks were the seventh seed in the West in 2003 when they reached the Stanley Cup finals and lost to New Jersey in seven games.
Other games on May 19, 2006