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Ducks push Sharks to brink with 4-0 win @NHLdotcom

Eric Stephens | Correspondent

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A small earthquake during the first intermission Thursday night didn’t cause much commotion inside the Honda Center. Instead, Bobby Ryan and his linemates shook up the joint – and the San Jose Sharks.

Ryan displayed in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals why he is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. The 22-year-old scored twice in the second period to power the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-0 victory and put the top-seeded Sharks on the verge of playoff elimination.

Despite setting franchise records with 53 wins and 117 points during the regular season, the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sharks are down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series and must win out to advance to the second round, beginning with Game 5 Saturday night in San Jose.

If they hope to get back to Anaheim for Game 6, the Sharks must find a way to slow down Anaheim's version of the "Legion of Doom" -- Ryan and linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The trio accounted for Anaheim's three non-empty-net goals, and each of the three was plus-3.

"They’re a good line," San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle said. "The guys that are out there have to do a good job against them. Obviously, they’re winning the series for them right now."

Clearly, the Ducks’ star trio is winning the high-profile matchup against the Sharks’ dynamic duo of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

"The Getzlaf-Perry line played better than Joe and his line, and it showed on the scoresheet," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.

Ryan’s two goals in the second period gave Anaheim a 2-0 lead. He shares the playoff lead with four goals, the same number as Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and the Boston duo of Michael Ryder and Phil Kessel.

Getzlaf set up Ryan's first goal 6:33 into the second period with a nifty backward pass after drawing Sharks center Joe Thornton to him to create space for Ryan to jump into the slot. Ryan finished the play when he stepped around the Sharks’ Jonathan Cheechoo in the slot and zipped a wrist shot between the pads of goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

Ryan had 31 goals and 57 points in only 64 games during the regular season to lead all NHL rookies.

"Bobby has an unbelievable shot, and he has a knack for finding most of our areas," Getzlaf said. "He’s a kid that’s getting confidence as he goes here. It’s great. As long as he keeps pushing the same way."

Ryan made it 2-0 when he scored from the slot again, this time from one knee,. Perry set up the play when he reached around a defender to put a shot on Nabokov from a sharp angle that created a rebound.

The big night earned him chants of "Bob-by, Bob-by" by most of the 16,830 in attendance after each goal and as the final seconds ticked off the clock following Andrew Miller's empty-netter. Those chants weren’t being yelled when Ryan struggled to stick with the Ducks last season and started this season with Iowa of the AHL because of a salary-cap issue.

"It’s pretty cool to hear," Ryan said of the crowd’s reaction. "I've obviously come a long way from last year.

Ryan is also earning a lot of praise in his dressing room.

"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "I played with Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the League. Bobby's hands are right with those guys. It’s sick the kind of stuff he can do with the puck.

"When you have a reach like that, you can wait guys out. It seems like he’s always giving a head fake and waiting somebody out then going around guys when they’re down. He’s a superstar in the making, it seems."

Perry helped finish off a stunned San Jose squad by deflecting a shot by Getzlaf past Nabokov at 14:09 of the third period after Getzlaf picked off an awful clearing pass from Thornton. It capped a nightmarish game for San Jose's No. 1 center, who was almost invisible offensively and finished with minus-3.

Meanwhile, Jonas Hiller blanked the Sharks for the second time in the series -- though he didn't have to work nearly as hard as he did in a 35-save 2-0 win in Game 1.

"He's keeping us in back there. They've got a lot of firepower, and he's been shutting the door," Perry said. "Everybody's doing the job, and it starts with him."

In all, the Ducks’ big line combined for three goals and six points as Perry got his first two points of the series.

"That was obviously a focus of ours tonight," Getzlaf said. "[It] was to use each other and play quite a bit and try and play as much as we could in the offensive zone again. That’s when we’re at our best, when we control the puck. The longer we have it, the less they do."

The Ducks’ big line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry was a terror all night, but its best shift may have come on the clinching goal late in the third period. Ryan won a puck battle with Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray that forced Joe Thornton to help out. Thornton sent a pass up the middle that was picked off by Getzlaf, whose shot was deflected in by Perry.

Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney has four assists in the series and he made a big play on the game’s first goal. Whitney hit Ryan Getzlaf in stride at neutral ice with a pass just before he took a hit from San Jose’s Jeremy Roenick. Getzlaf took the puck into the Sharks’ zone and found Bobby Ryan with a nice backward pass that led to Ryan’s goal.

Upstaged by San Jose’s Dan Boyle and Rob Blake in Game 3, the Ducks’ dynamic blue-line duo of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger had just one assist between them but they played heavy minutes and seemed to control the tempo every time they were on the ice. With support from Whitney and Francois Beauchemin, Boyle and Blake were a non-factor after combining for five points in Game 3.

How’s this for complete dominance? Between them, Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry registered 11 shots on goal and combined for three goals and six points in all. Meanwhile, San Jose’s prolific duo of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were held in check again. Neither Thornton nor Marleau had a shot on goal while Thornton was minus-3 and Marleau a minus-1.

Everyone got a rare lengthy rest period when Milan Michalek checked Bobby Ryan into the side board right at center ice. The force shattered the glass the separates the two benches, leading to a 15-minute pause in the action as arena personnel had to clean up the mess in both the Sharks and Ducks benches. As if that wasn’t enough, a 4.0 earthquake shook in nearby Yorba Linda during the first-period intermission.

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