Eric Stephens | NHL.com Correspondent
-- In the eyes of many, it will be viewed as a major upset -- a No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed that finished with the NHL's best regular-season record.
Don't tell that to the Anaheim Ducks
To a man, the Ducks thought they were no ordinary No. 8 seed that snuck into the postseason. They proved their point to the top-seeded San Jose Sharks
throughout their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Another balanced offensive effort by Anaheim and another standout performance by goaltender Jonas Hiller
led to a 4-1 victory in Game 6 that eliminated San Jose -- which won 53 regular-season games and racked up 117 points to claim its first Presidents’ Trophy.
The Ducks became the eighth No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 in the first round since the current playoff format was established before the 1993-94 season. Edmonton was the last team to pull the trick, eliminating Detroit in 2006 en route to the Stanley Cup Final. The Wings will be the Ducks' opponent in the second round.
"It feels good to move on," said Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf
, whose late third-period goal was the final straw. "It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or what seed we’re in when we’re in the playoffs. We consider ourselves a contender. We felt that way right from the start.
"This is just the first round, and we'll move from there."
The Ducks showed they were ready from the opening faceoff. Two seconds after Getzlaf won the draw from Sharks center Joe Thornton
, the two All-Stars dropped their gloves and fought as each clearly tried to give his team an early emotional edge.
In Game 5, Thornton had been jabbing at Getzlaf at the start of the game and he finished with a three-point effort in the Sharks’ 3-2 overtime win. Getzlaf had hoped Thornton would be willing to fight and took on the challenge when Thornton asked prior to the opening faceoff on Monday.
"It was obviously something that was provoked a little bit last game," Getzlaf said. "He kind of challenged me a little bit last game. After the opening draw, I really didn't want to fight at that point when the series was 3-1. I just didn't want to give them any start.
"I felt tonight was kind of the opportunity to redeem myself and Joe wanted to go again to spark his team. We just decided to go again."
After spotting the Sharks a 1-0 lead on Milan Michalek’s power-play goal midway through the first period, the Ducks controlled the rest of the game in the manner that they won the series.
answered Michalek’s goal with his own power-play tally on a 4-on-3 advantage just 2:14 later. Teemu Selanne broke a goal-scoring drought at 13:03 of the middle period when he got his first of the playoffs and the eventual game-winner, also with the man advantage.
Selanne had just one assist in the first five games until he got the puck near the goal line from Chris Pronger on a nicely-run power play and threw the puck toward the net where Perry was stationing himself in front and Getzlaf was crashing in from the left side. Before Perry could get his stick on it, Selanne’s pass went off Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and into the net past goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
"That was nice," Selanne said. "But when you can't score, you have to do something else good. That’s what I tried to do and our line tried to do. We’ve got a lot of good hockey left. That’s the great thing about this.”
The Ducks again got a dominant performance from their back end, which mirrored the five other games.
, who missed most of the regular season with a torn ACL in his left knee, put the Sharks on their heels with a goal just 83 seconds after Selanne’s -- his shot hit and broke defenseman Dan Boyle
's stick before zipping into the top corner. Pronger had two assists and finished as a plus-6 in the series. Scott Niedermayer also had an assist and ended with five points, while Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski also played big minutes and chipped in offensively.
If the Sharks got by Anaheim’s group of six, Hiller was there to foil them. Hiller made 36 saves and allowed just 10 goals in the six games.
"Their defense is second to none in the League right now," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "They’re playing very stingy in the defensive zone. When you do beat them, their goaltender is there. In my opinion, if you picked the star in the series, Hiller would be the star."
"It feels good to move on. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or what seed we’re in when we’re in the playoffs. We consider ourselves a contender. We felt that way right from the start."
-- Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf
Looking at sheer numbers, San Jose beat the Ducks in every way during the regular season. The Sharks racked up 26 more points than their Pacific Division rival in easily claiming the divisional crown. They won four of the six regular-season meetings and had a statistical edge in virtually all of the important categories.
But Anaheim had all the momentum heading into the playoffs, finishing with a 10-2-1 run to grab the last seed in the West. Once the Ducks won the first two games of the series in San Jose, they kept the firm grip that they earned.
"We were playing the best hockey team or one of the top three teams in the League," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Detroit, Boston and San Jose, they had tremendous seasons and are great hockey clubs. We didn’t have the consistency and the success that we anticipated with our group.
"We finally had our team playing well from the trade deadline on. Then we felt we could contend."
Selanne said the Ducks were in playoff mode in March and simply hit the ground running when they did get in.
"We knew that we had to win a lot of games first of all to make the playoffs," he said. "I don't believe that anybody can turn it on now [when] we start the playoffs. You have to build the momentum into the playoffs because everybody is going to raise their level.
"That was our advantage in this series. We were ready right away."
The fight officially went out in the top-seeded Sharks with about six minutes left in the third period, then the Ducks closed it out when Drew Miller and Rob Niedermayer simply hogged the puck along behind the San Jose net before Niedermayer got loose and passed it back to Ryan Getzlaf
, who ripped in the final Anaheim tally to cap its major upset.
Mike Brown might be a supporting role player for Anaheim, but he used his speed to torment the Sharks. The 23-year-old right wing’s tenacity helped the Ducks’ grinders put together several nice shifts, and his speed earned him an assist on Francois Beauchemin
’s key insurance goal as he blew past San Jose’s Marcel Goc through the neutral zone and got the puck to Ryan Carter, who fed Beauchemin back at the point for a slap shot and a 3-1 lead.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle normally likes to put Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer together on defense only in special-team situations and important moments near the end of the period, or in the final moments of a close game. Apparently all of Game 6 was important enough, as the two Ducks’ blue-line standouts were on the ice throughout.
Starting with the fight between Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf
and San Jose’s Joe Thornton
two seconds after the opening faceoff, the Ducks and Sharks both racked up the penalty minutes in an emotionally-charged game. The two teams combined for 60 penalty minutes (30 for each side) with the total helped along by a scrap between Sharks center Joe Pavelski
and Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney to end the second period.
Since Randy Carlyle took over in 2005, Anaheim has won eight of the 10 playoff series he has coached. The Ducks have also closed out four of those series when they grabbed a 2-0 lead, all in six games or fewer. Carlyle has also had captain Scott Niedermayer, a four-time Stanley Cup winner, patrolling his blue line that entire time. Coincidence? You be the judge.