Ducks await Predators after big win over Oilers

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Ducks fans won’t forget Wednesday’s Game 7 after years of watching their team exit the playoffs after Game 7 losses on their home ice. Especially after the loss in Edmonton on Sunday, when, as Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle put it, the team didn’t have any emotion. “With the Game 6 performance, we were emotionally drained. And we went into Edmonton and we didn’t have a level of emotion, a level of focus, a level [to] compete whatever word you want to describe, in the hockey game — for whatever reason,” Carlyle said. It was the result of the dramatic Game 5, according to the head coach. “Because of the comeback in Game 5 where we scored three goals in the last three minutes and then won it in over time, that was an emotional rollercoaster that we were at a pretty big high. And then when we got to Edmonton we just weren’t able to gather any emotion. We were flat.”

Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle

The head coach went on to say, “You can’t discount our group because we lost the first two games in our building. And I don’t know if we get enough credit for coming back and forcing a game 7 here, after losing your first two. We went back up to Edmonton and won two, to grab home ice advantage. So that in itself is a pretty large accomplishment.”

In Wednesday’s game the Ducks gave up an early goal when Anaheim defenseman Shea Theodore inexplicably tried to bring the puck out from behind the net and Ducks goalie John Gibson. Drake Caggiula challenged the move and it appeared Theodore mistakenly knocked the puck into the net. Caggiula got credit for the goal.

After that the Ducks took over the game, giving the Oilers fewer quality chances to score. On the flipside Edmonton played tight defense as well. At 8:55 in the second period Andrew Cogliano tied the game and then at 3:21 in the third period Nick Ritchie put the Ducks ahead.

With about three minutes left in the game Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot left his net to give the Oilers an offensive advantage, putting the Ducks fans on edge for most of the 180 seconds. With that extra man Edmonton kept the puck in the Ducks’ zone, but with just seconds left in the game the puck went sliding into the Oilers’ zone and the final seconds ticked off the clock.

The Honda Center erupted in a roar.

Ducks Left Winger Nick Ritchie

After the game Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was asked about the “Game 7 Curse,” if it was a relief to win a Game 7. He said, “I wouldn’t say it’s a relief, but the fact we don’t have to talk about it anymore, that’s a good thing.”

Wednesday was his 32nd birthday and he didn’t score a point in the game, but Getzlaf had an incredible series, leading a defensive effort that limited Edmonton’s stand out All Star 20-yar old captain, Connor McDavid, to just five points in the series.

Head coach Todd McLellan told the media there were two streams of thought after Game 7. The first was disappointment. “We didn’t come into the playoffs just to play, we came to win. I think our team played that way, and prepared that way and battled that way, so the overall feeling right now is one of disappointment. We couldn’t quite get it done.”

But putting that aside, the coach found a lot of positives in the Oilers’ first playoffs since 2006.“Our entrée into the playoffs was about as good as we could ask — the type of teams we played, the series that we played in, the ups and the downs, we basically got a college degree in a month when it comes to the playoffs, and that experience for us moving forward is going to be very, very helpful.”

Ducks Center Andrew Cogliano

Throughout the playoffs an opponent has shadowed McDavid, in this series primarily Ryan Kesler. Once McDavid learns how to deal with that, his play in the post-season will be much like his play in the regular season.

McLellan said the entire team has learned a lot, not just his star center. “It wasn’t just him. Leon (Draisaitl) had to fight through that.”

On Friday the Western Conference Finals get under way at the Honda Center when the Nashville Predators come to town. Ducks fans will remember last year when the Predators ended the Ducks’ playoff hopes in a critical Game 7 of their first round series. This time around they will be skating for the right to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

Below is Claudia Gestro’s video report from Game 7 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Photos by Claudia Gestro