Game 7 win against Oilers a big relief for Ducks
Ends run of four consecutive home losses in deciding gamesby Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer
ANAHEIM -- The ghosts of Game 7 still had one more card to play, one more salvo to hurl at the Anaheim Ducks.
This one came in the form of a blunder by rookie defenseman Shea Theodore in front of his net, leading to a goal by Edmonton Oilers forward Drake Caggiula at 3:31 of the first period of Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round on Wednesday.
The collective thought at Honda Center: Here we go again.
[RELATED: Complete Ducks vs. Oilers series coverage | Oilers take huge step despite Game 7 loss to Ducks]
But the playoffs of the unexpected took one more dramatic turn, one more unexpected twist. The Ducks would not allow another goal and managed to banish the ghosts of Game 7s past, unloading the baggage the franchise has been carrying for years.
They won a Game 7 for the first time in 11 years and stopped a run of four consecutive Game 7 losses at home with a 2-1 win.
The Ducks will face the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Final, with Game 1 at Anaheim on Friday. The Ducks are 0-2 against the Predators in their playoff history.
Why shouldn't there be a little more potential adversity along the way for the Ducks?
They certainly endured enough in the second round. They lost the first two games against the Oilers, took control of the series, only to get crushed 7-1 on Sunday in Game 6. Then they gave up the early goal in Game 7.
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Getzlaf discusses the Ducks' series win
"Again, I've gone back to it many times," captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "The way we've played the last half of the season where we've learned to deal with adversity, and we had to do that tonight. Obviously we gave up an early goal. We gave up a lot of goals the other night and our team came back and played great. Our goaltender (John Gibson) played unbelievable."
The second period signaled the final momentum switch in a second round full of wild swings. Anaheim picked up the pace, outshot the Oilers 16-3 in the second period and established their forecheck. The fourth line, centered by Nate Thompson, had an impactful early shift and their physical play seemed to filter through the rest of the lineup.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle also made a strategic change in the second period, putting forward Nick Ritchie on the first line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry and moved forward Rickard Rakell to the third line. Ritchie responded by scoring the game-winner at 3:21 of the third period.
Carlyle thought about making the change to start the game.
"I just wanted to see the temperament of the game and how it was going and I just felt the way the (Leon) Draisaitl, (Milan) Lucic and (Drake) Caggiula line had performed, specifically in the last game, I felt it was important to have more size there," Carlyle said.
"That was the only thing. It was about Nick Ritchie's size. … In tonight's game he made the difference. Now I don't think it's a genius move by my part. You do those things, and we've done them all year, move people up and down."
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Carlyle discusses Gm7, series victory
But Carlyle's sense of timing has often been sharp. He had it in his first run with the Ducks, and they won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and he hasn't lost his ability to make timely in-game adjustments.
"That's why we brought him back," general manager Bob Murray said. "I'm just happy. I'm just happy it (Game 7) is off (our) back."
This was the first time the Ducks won after losing the first two games in a playoff round. They are in the Western Conference Final for the second time in the past three years.
The road was bumpy, especially after the lopsided loss on Sunday.
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Ducks, Oilers shake hands at center ice
There was soul-searching from the leadership group. Forward Andrew Cogliano, who played for the Oilers from 2007-11, was defiant after Game 6, saying he didn't care about the baggage of the past Game 7 losses.
He suggested they needed to do more to support the likes of Getzlaf, and included himself. Then Cogliano scored his first goal of the postseason to tie it at 1-1 at 8:55 of the second period.
"We needed goals from other guys," Cogliano said. "We said it after the last game. I said it. We needed other guys to step up and give some support to guys like (Getzlaf), (Rakell) and (Jakob Silfverberg). They've been carrying the load here for the last couple series.
"We're going to need other guys to step up and score big goals."