ANAHEIM -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a roller coaster for Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchie.
He reached the apex in a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round at Honda Center on Wednesday when he scored the game-winning goal at 3:21 of the third period.
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"A series-clinching game-winner is a huge goal," Ritchie said. "It was exciting out there and a huge win for us, and we're moving forward now."
The Ducks advanced to play the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Final. Game 1 is here on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Ritchie began the playoffs serving the second game of a two-game suspension for roughing Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
He scored in his second game back to spark a comeback in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round sweep of the Calgary Flames, but committed a holding penalty in Game 1 against the Oilers, which led to a power-play goal that tied the game 1-1. The Ducks never regained the lead in a 5-3 loss.
Ritchie was a late scratch in Game 2 after feeling flu-like symptoms during warmups, and the Ducks lost that game 2-1 to go down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series.
Ritchie's workload decreased upon his return in Game 3, when he received 8:58 of ice time. He didn't have a point in the first six games of the series.
"We had a terrible game up there in Edmonton and got beat pretty good and I think that kind of helped us," Ritchie said, referring to a 7-1 loss at Rogers Place on Sunday. "It was a good wake-up call and we had a couple days to regroup."
He started Game 7 on a line with Antoine Vermette and Ondrej Kase. But about halfway through, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle moved him onto the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Ritchie wires a wrister past Talbot
"I got a chance to go with [Perry and Getzlaf], guys that I had played with this year," Ritchie said. "When I play with them I try to get on the puck, go to the net and just get the puck to them."
Ritchie had two solid scoring opportunities before finishing the third off a pass from defenseman Sami Vatanen after Perry's shot had gone wide.
"Sometimes in games, you get a few chances early," Ritchie said. "The puck follows you a little bit, and I think tonight I had some of my best chances of the series and finally capitalized."
Ritchie said the scoring play began with old-fashioned hard work.
"We kind of just had a forecheck off a broken play. Sami made a good pass in the middle and I got it on the net and it went in," he said. "We got a break there, I think."
Few were happier to see the shot hit the net than Getzlaf, who celebrated his 32nd birthday.
"It's huge," he said. "Ritchie's a kid that's been playing great all season. He's doing some good things, he's learning along the way. He played with us for at least half the game tonight and made a big contribution."
Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano, who scored his first goal of the playoffs to tie the game at 1-1 in the second period, said similar contributions will be required against the Predators.
"We said it after last game, we needed other guys to step up and give some support to guys like [Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell] and [Jakob Silfverberg]," Cogliano said. "They've been carrying the load for the last couple series. We're going to need other guys to step up and score big goals."