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In a Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 1 that seemed a long-time coming, the Ducks played exactly like a team that was one of the league's best in the regular season.
Dustin Penner's goal with 5:20 left in the third gave Anaheim a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Honda Center against the Minnesota Wild, owner of one of the NHL's best defenses. It gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead in what promises to continue to be a tough series.
Teemu Selanne opened the scoring for the Ducks with a breakaway goal in the second.
With the score tied 1-1, Penner raced ahead of the defense on the left side after receiving a long pass from linemate Ryan Getzlaf. Penner's shot rebounded off Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom into the crease. Corey Perry poked at it several times before Penner pushed it through Backstrom, who was on his back.
"We just kept banging away," Perry said, "and Pens finally put it in the net. [Backstrom] was just lying on the goal ine waiting for somebody to hit it. It was under his leg for a minute and I hit it. It squeaked out and just laid there for Pens."
Backstrom was one Wild player who didn't think it should have counted.
"That's a goal that shouldn't be on the board," he said. "I watched the replay and I was sure it was under me and nobody saw the puck. That's a bad goal and it's tough to lose a game on that."
As the loudest Honda Center crowd of the season welcomed them, the Ducks hit the ice in the first looking exactly like a team that couldn't wait to get started with playoff hockey. And the rest of the first followed suit, replete with hard skating from both teams, aggressive play and a couple of punches thrown around the net. The only thing it didn't have was scoring, though the Ducks had some solid chances throughout the period. But they couldn't get anything past rookie Niklas Bastrom, who came into the game leading the NHL in goals against average and saver percentage.
Things changed in the second, when the Wild got on the board first on a goal by Pavol Demitra. Six minutes into the period, the former King took a nice centering pass from Kurtis Foster and fired a wrister from the slot that got past Ilya Bryzgalov on his glove side.
Four minutes later the Ducks got even on a goal from a likely source. Teemu Selanne, who had 48 on the regular season, quickly got into playoff scoring mode, though the star of the play may have been Francois Beauchemin. The defenseman grabbed the puck along the boards deep in the Anaheim zone and made a pass to mid-ice that somehow got through everybody and found Selanne on a breakaway. Almost predictably, Selanne put the shot under Backstrom's pad and into the net. The goal gave Selanne 29 playoff points as a Duck, tying Paul Kariya's club record.
"What a great win this was for us," Selanne said. "The fans were so loud. They were like the sixth player out there. It was awesome."
Bryzgalov had 24 saves in the game, starting ahead of J.S. Giguere, who had missed the last two games of the regular season tending to his wife and new son. Bryzgalov turned away several valiant efforts from the Wild and was saved by a couple of shots off the post.
The Ducks and Wild promise to make it another memorable one when they contend in Game 2 on Friday at 7:30.
"It was a good start but nothing phenomenal," Selanne said. "We have to keep moving on."
14:40 - ANA GOAL - DUSTIN PENNER - Penner gets ahead of the defense and fires a shot that rebounds off Backstrom and into the painted area. Corey Perry pokes at it several times in the crease before Penner finally pushes it through Backstrom, who is on his back. Ducks take a 2-1 lead.
12:59 - Minnesota's Stephane Veilleux takes a shot from the point that does everything but go in. It hits the post and Bryzgalov reaches behind himself to clear it to center ice.
9:32 - A little bit of chippiness in front of the Minnesota net after a nice Backstrom save. Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rolston stare each other down, but nothing physical.
2:59 - MIN PENALTY - Marian Gaborik, 2 min. tripping
0:00 - Here we go with the third, tied 1-1.
20:00 - The sound of the buzzer is a welcome one for the Ducks, as they kill all but 5 seconds of the Niedermayer penalty. The Wild get one in the first from Pavol Demitra, but the Ducks get one back on a pretty one from Selanne. We're tied 1-1 going to the third.
18:05 - ANA PENALTY - Scott Niedermayer, 2 min. hooking. The Ducks are lucky the penalty was the worst that happened to them on that play. As Niedermayer hooks Marian Gaborik from behind, Gaborik gets a soft shot off that slips through Bryzgalov and hits the left post, just trickling toward the happy side of the line.
9:52 - ANA GOAL - TEEMU SELANNE - While Selanne gets the goal, Francois Beauchemin should get much of the credit. Beauch takes the puck against the boards deep in the Anaheim zone and make a pass to mid-ice that somehow gets through everyone and catches Selanne ahead of the defense. He predictably buries it past Backstrom's left pad. It ties Selanne with Paul Kariya for the all-time Ducks record for playoff points at 29.
6:42 - ANA PENALTY - Joe DiPenta, 2 min. holding. Minnesota is 0-2 on the power play tonight.
6:01 - MIN GOAL - PAVOL DEMITRA - Kurtis Foster makes a nice centering pass to Demitra whose wrister from between the circles gets past Bryzgalov on his glove side. It's 1-0 Wild.
5:00 - Ducks have a 2 on 1 but it's thwarted when Selanne's pass to Kunitz comes a little late.
0:00 - And we're back! Underway in the second stanza.
20:00 - We hit the end of a first period that had it all: hard skating, aggressive play, a few punches thrown, spectacular shots on goal...just no scoring. Ducks outshoot the Wild, 13-11. And we'll be back in 17 minutes.
19:35 - Bryz makes a nice save on a one-timer and the rebound try by Marian Gaborik.
18:13 - ANA PENALTY - George Parros, 2 min. interference. Crowd still loves him.
15:45 - Pronger hits the inside of the post on an absolutely ripped one-timer from the point. Backstrom freezes it and there is a little aggression in front of the net. Mikko Koivu throws a shot at Ryan Getzlaf's head to keep him off Backstrom. Getzlaf fights back and they both get roughing minors. We're 4 on 4 for a couple minutes.
14:51 - MIN PENALTY - Martin Skoula, 2 min. holding
10:56 - As we go into the first timeout, it's definitely looking like playoff hockey. Ducks are outshooting the Wild, 11-6 with a few strong chances, but nothing to show for it yet. Meanwhile, the Ducks are hitting as hard as ever.
5:57 - Niedermayer comes flying out of the box and gets a pass at mid-ice for a breakaway. It appears he's hooked from behind, but no call as Backstrom stops the shot.
3:47 - ANA PENALTY - Scott Niedermayer, 2 min. tripping. Minny was sixth in the league on the PP, while the Ducks were fifth in killing.
2:12 - MIN PENALTY - Derek Boogard, 2 min. charging. The Ducks are on the power play for the first time. The Ducks were third in the league this year on the PP. The Wild were second in the league in killing it.
0:00 - And we are underway in front of unquestionably the most pumped up crowd of the season, each of them waving their orange Fowl Towels.
- The Ducks have extended their winning streak versus Minnesota to five games in postseason play (Four game sweep in 2003 Western Conference Final).
- With tonight's win, the Ducks now have a 29-24 record in the postseason.
- Teemu Selanne's goal was his 29th career playoff point with Anaheim (16-13=29) tying Paul Kariya (14-15=29) for the all time Duck's record. He has recorded points in four consecutive postseason games dating back to last year (2-3=5).
- Dustin Penner's goal was his fourth career goal in the postseason.
- Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 24-of-25 shots for his seventh career postseason win.
Starting Goaltenders: ANA Ilya Bryzgalov; MIN Niklas Backstrom
Starting Skaters: ANA Teemu Selanne, Chris Kunitz, Andy McDonald, Sean O'Donnell, Chris Pronger; MIN Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster, Todd White, MArtin Skoula, Branko Radivojevic.
Scratches: ANA Sebastien Caron, Todd Marchant, Ryan Shannon, Shawn Thornton; MIN Manny Fernandez, Shawn Belle, Dominic Moore, Adam Hall, Petteri Nummelin, Matt Foy
Ducks Playoffs Section
Audio: Teemu Selanne on the Wild
Audio: Selanne on the Matchup
After more than six months of the regular season, the wait is finally over.
It's playoff time.
The road to the Stanley Cup starts tonight, with the Ducks taking on the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 at Honda Center.
It's a matchup of two teams that are both solid defensively. Anaheim boasts two of the best D-men in the game in Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, while Minnesota gave up the fewest goals in the league this season.
"They're a hockey team that a lot of things are going right for them, and have been for a while," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire named a long list of the Ducks' strengths and said, "That's going to be our goal, stay in the game. It's a team that can take you out in a few seconds. A couple shifts and it's over.
"But if you extend the game, that's how you get a chance to win."
Ducks goalie J.S Giguere, who did not make the team's regular-season-closing trip over the weekend, also missed practice on Tuesday. Giguere has been spending time with his wife and newborn son, who has an unspecified - but non-life threatening - medical problem.
Giguere will be available to play the opener for the Ducks, and they also have backup goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who performed well in the postseason last year when Giguere was injured. Bryzgalov also played well in the closing games of the regular season, a 2-1 shootout loss at Dallas and a 4-3 win at Columbus.
Carlyle said he had given Giguere paternity time off and that missing practice shouldn't have any effect on the goalie's readiness to play.
The Wild, led by 29-year-old rookie goalie Niklas Backstrom and forward Marian Gaborik, finished the regular season on a roll, going 22-5-4 to wrap up a 48-26-8 season that is the team's best since coming into the league in 2000.
"It's definitely important to be playing the right way going into the playoffs," said Minnesota's Keith Carney, the former Ducks defenseman signed by Minnesota last summer. "It builds confidence in your team and in your system."
The Ducks went 48-20-14, setting team records for wins and standings points, and won the Pacific Division for their first division title.
They made it to the Western Conference finals last year, losing to Edmonton in five games.
The Ducks swept the Wild in the 2003 Western Conference finals. It was Anaheim's deepest run in the playoffs in its history, as they reached the Stanley Cup finals before losing to New Jersey (and Scott Niedermayer) in Game 7.
"We had a great run going and we get in against them and it's done," said Minnesota defenseman Nick Schultz. "I think we've got to be conscious of that going into this series. If you're not ready, it could be over in a hurry.
"They kind of wiped away our hopes a few years ago, so it would be nice to do the same to them this year."
The Ducks and the Wild are eager to get going in the postseason.
"What everybody remembers is how you did in the playoffs," said Niedermayer, who played on the Lemaire-coached Devils when they won it all in 1995. "The intensity cranks up for everybody now. It's a fun time."
Backstrom, who led the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, said: "We've been waiting for these games. I'm excited. This is the main goal that everybody has been working for. It's a big challenge for everybody to get their best game (going) now."
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday in Anaheim, with games at Minnesota on Sunday and Tuesday.
- Associated press contributed to this report
|Game ||Date ||Venue ||Time (PDT) ||TV |
|1 ||Wednesday, April 11 ||Honda Center ||7:30 p.m. ||FSN West |
|2 ||Friday, April 13 ||Honda Center ||7:30 p.m. ||KDOC |
|3 ||Sunday, April 15 ||Xcel Energy Center ||5 p.m. ||FSN Prime Ticket |
|4 ||Tuesday, April 17 ||Xcel Energy Center ||6 p.m ||KDOC |
|5* ||Thursday, April 19 ||Honda Center ||7:30 p.m. ||FSN Prime Ticket |
|6* ||Saturday, April 21 ||Xcel Energy Center ||TBA ||TBA |
|7* ||Monday, April 23 ||Honda Center ||7 p.m. ||FSN Prime Ticket |
* If Necessary
Teemu Selanne, 48
Brian Rolston, 31
Scott Niedermayer, 54
Pavol Demitra, 39
Teemu Selanne, 94
Brian Rolston, 64
J.S. Giguere, 36
Niklas Backstrom, 23
1. LW Chris Kunitz, C Andy McDonald, RW Teemu Selanne
2. LW Dustin Penner, C Ryan Getzlaf, RW Corey Perry
3. LW Travis Moen, C Samuel Pahlsson, RW Rob Niedermayer
4. LW Brad May, C Mark Hartigan, RW Shawn Thornton
Reserves: George Parros, Ryan Shannon
1. Francois Beauchemin, Scott Niedermayer
2. Sean O'Donnell, Chris Pronger
3. Kent Huskins, Joe DiPenta
Reserve: Ric Jackman
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov, Sebastien Caron
1. LW Pavol Demitra, C Wes Walz, RW Marian Gaborik
2. LW Brian Rolston, C Todd White, RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard
3. LW Mark Parrish, C Mikko Koivu, RW Adam Hall
4. LW Derek Boogaard, C Wyatt Smith, RW Branko Radivojevic
Reserves: Matt Foy, Dominic Moore
1. Kim Johnsson-Nick Schultz
2. Martin Skoula-Kurtis Foster
3. Keith Carney-Brent Burns
Reserves: Shawn Belle, Petteri Nummelin
Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding
Regular Season Matchups
Oct. 20: Minnesota 1 at Anaheim 2
Oct. 27: Anaheim 2 at Minnesota 3 (SO)
Nov. 12: Minnesota 2 at Anaheim 3
Dec. 31: Anaheim 3 at Minnesota 4