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Ducks edge Flames in OT, advance to conference final

by Corey Masisak /

ANAHEIM -- When Corey Perry was desperately trying to drag himself off the ice on one leg, the Anaheim Ducks grip on this Western Conference Second Round series could have been in peril.

When Perry returned, and eventually shoveled the puck across the goal line while on one knee 2:26 into overtime of Game 5, the series was over.

Perry's goal Sunday lifted the Ducks past the Calgary Flames 3-2 at Honda Center. Anaheim, which won the best-of-7 series 4-1, will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.

It is the first time the Ducks are a part of the NHL's final four since 2007 when they won the Stanley Cup.

"I think after the last couple seasons, it's been tough exiting the playoffs the way we did," Perry said. "I think this year we came in with that mindset of business first and you're doing anything to help this team win. There is a lot of character in that room."

Perry left the game briefly earlier after a collision with Calgary's Matt Stajan in the second period, but he returned for a brief shift near the end of the period and then took regular shifts in the third and overtime.

He said he felt the collision was incidental, but didn't want to talk about what part of his leg was injured on the play.

"It didn't feel great when it happened and I didn't know what was going on," Perry said. "It calmed down after a few minutes and I started walking around. You do anything and help the team win at any point, but especially in the playoffs."

The Ducks outshot the Flames 47-19, including 7-0 in overtime. Calgary goalie Karri Ramo made 44 saves.

Ramo kept the Flames in the game, but the shots were 35-10 after the first period, and eventually he couldn't stop them all.

"We had a chance but you lose a game, you lose a game," Ramo said. "It's a pretty empty feeling right now. It's a tough team we played against. I think we can be proud."

It was a season full of surpassed expectations in Calgary and possible foundation blocks laid for future success. The Flames were predicted to finish near the bottom of the NHL standings by most preseason pundits, but Calgary not only reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs and finished ahead of the 2014 champion Los Angeles Kings for the final spot in the West, it also defeated the Vancouver Canucks and reached the second round for the first time since 2004.

The Flames did so despite losing defenseman Mark Giordano, a Norris Trophy contender, to a season-ending injury. Calgary will need to improve its depth, particularly on defense, and fix its issues with possessing the puck, but Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett could be an elite young core to build around.

"The investment we put into those young players in the playoffs, whether against the Canucks or this one against the Ducks, it's priceless," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. "Now they know how hard you need to suffer to win some games. The pace, how unbelievable the pace is. Now they know. It doesn't mean that it's guaranteed success. It's another page in our book."

Jiri Hudler went pointless in the first four games, but scored Calgary's first goal with Ryan Kesler in the penalty box and setup Gaudreau's goal to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.

Gaudreau, a Calder Trophy finalist, led the Flames with nine points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sunday was his 100th game of the season, including preseason, regular-season and playoff games. That's more than double what he played the previous three seasons for Boston College.

Kesler had Anaheim's first goal, a power-play one-timer from Jakub Silfverberg. Their linemate at even strength, Matt Beleskey, scored the game-tying goal 59 seconds into the third period with a man-advantage. Beleskey set a Ducks record by scoring in his fifth consecutive postseason game.

The Ducks dominated the third period, but Calgary still had a 2-on-1 in the final seconds of regulation. Anaheim controlled play early in overtime before Perry scored and set off the celebration.

"We like to make it interesting," Kesler said. "This group has been special all year. We did it again tonight. I'm proud of these guys, but saying that, we're only halfway through."

For Bruce Boudreau, it is his first trip to the conference finals as an NHL coach. For Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf, it is the first trip to the conference final in eight years, but for the majority of the Anaheim players it is also a bit of redemption. In each of the past two postseasons, the Ducks have had a 3-2 series lead only to lose Games 6 and 7.

In 2013 it was in the opening round to the Detroit Red Wings, but last season it was in the second round and the rival Kings were involved. Los Angeles defeated the Ducks in Game 7 at Honda Center, and Boudreau said after the morning skate Sunday his players hoped to make amends for the way that series ended.

It might be a year later than originally expected, but the Ducks will get their chance to square off with the Blackhawks.

"They're determined," Boudreau said when asked about his team's 8-1 record, including 2-0 in elimination games this postseason. "We're committed and determined. That's not to say Chicago isn't committed or determined. They're going to prove to be as tough a foe as you could possibly ask for."

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