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Ducks defeat Coyotes, finish first in conference

by Jerry Brown / NHL.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Anaheim Ducks worked for 82 games to finish with the best record in the Western Conference. Their reward for all that effort is a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff matchup against one of the biggest and hottest teams in the League.

Center Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist and the Ducks clinched the top spot in the West with a 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

The win allowed the Ducks to finish above the St. Louis Blues for the No. 1 spot. They each had 109 points, but Anaheim had one more regulation/overtime win (43-42) during the season. So Anaheim will play against the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference First Round.

"That's a big boy's game, that's for sure," said Getzlaf, who hit the 25-goal mark for the fourth time in his career. "We're built similar. Two heavy teams. No matter who we play, we knew it was going to be a tough series. You look up and down the West and there's not a lot of teams where it's not going to be a man's game. And this one will be for sure."

Getzlaf has 57 points in 56 games against the Coyotes.

Jakob Silfverberg's added a goal and an assist for the goal for the Ducks (51-24-7), who ended the season with their 33rd one-goal win to break the record for the most set by the 2006-07 New Jersey Devils. Anaheim was 33-1-7 in one-goal games during the season.

Goalie Frederik Andersen made 23 saves for his 35th for Anaheim, which outshot the Coyotes 38-24 and ended a two-game losing streak.

"It was a good test for us," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Even though their team didn't have a lot of play for, they wanted to play for their fans and win the last one. They made it pretty dicey at the end."

Boudreau said his team knows it will have its hands full with the Jets.

"Outside of Ottawa, they might be the hottest team in the League right now," he said. "They had the toughest schedule coming down the stretch and excelled at it. They have a physical team and we can get physical if we need to be. It's going to be a hard-nosed series.

"It would not surprise me if everyone picks them and we'd be the underdogs, based on the way they had to make the playoffs in the Central Division. They gave up one goal in their last four games, in St. Louis, in Minnesota, in Chicago. They're feeling pretty good about themselves."

Sam Gagner scored for the Coyotes (24-50-8), who lost for the 58th time to break the franchise record set by the 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets (9-57-14). They ended the season with the worst record in the conference and second-worst point total in the NHL behind the Buffalo Sabres. Arizona could select as high as first or low as third in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Goalie Mike Smith made 36 saves for the Coyotes and lost for the 47th time (14-42-5).

"It was a painful experience, that's for sure," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "We weren't really competitive the last two-and-a-half months or so. Losing kills you enough, but when you're not as competitive as you need to be, that's even more frustrating. That's where we are. At least it stops now and we get a chance to try to fix things.

"I'd hoped we would be competitive this year, but we knew a lot of things had to fall into place. More things fell out of place than into place and that's where we find ourselves. (Anaheim) had the season you dream about in training camp. We've had the nightmare."

Anaheim outshot the Coyotes 14-4 in the first period. The Ducks failed to capitalize on two penalties against Connor Murphy in the period but struck just after a penalty kill of their own.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson hit the post early during an Arizona power play but turned over the puck at his blue line as the penalty expired. Corey Perry found Tomas Fleischmann coming out of the box with speed and he put a backhand pass across the slot to Getzlaf, where the latter beat Smith on a backhand shot at 5:41 to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead.

"I was able to get on the score sheet a few times. It was good to get back in the mix and play with the guys again," said Getzlaf, who sat out the past two games resting for the playoffs. "We've been working a long time for this. This month has been really slow for me and it's been hard sitting in the stands. I'm excited to play come Wednesday or Thursday."

The Ducks doubled their lead late in the second period. Getzlaf won a battle for the puck along the boards and pushed it along to Andrew Cogliano. From behind the goal line, Cogliano sent a pass to a charging Silfverberg, who sent a shot over Smith's glove and under the crossbar at 19:23.

"It's good to go into the playoffs with some confidence," Silfverberg said. "I felt like I had the legs with me today."

Arizona avoided being shut out for the 12th time this season and cut the lead in half at 13:59 of the third period. David Moss got control of the puck and pushed it to Martin Erat behind the Anaheim net. Erat found Gagner in front and he beat Andersen with a wrist shot for his 15th goal.

But the Coyotes were unable to get the equalizer down the stretch.

"We talked before the game about coming out hard and playing a good game to finish it off the right way," Ekman-Larsson said. "We were battling hard tonight.

"It really feels weird. Obviously we have meetings and stuff on Monday and that's when we say goodbye, but I think a lot of players aren't going to be here next year."

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