Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Ducks end their Game 7 woes by outdoing Oilers

AP and AFP, ANAHEIM, California

Nick Ritchie of the Anaheim Ducks, front left, scores past Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, front, in Game 7 of their NHL playoff series at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Nick Ritchie is an NHL playoff newcomer. The 21-year-old power forward was not around for any of the Anaheim Ducks’ agonizing Game 7 defeats over the past four seasons.

So on Wednesday when he found a patch of open ice during the third period, Ritchie could let fly with a beautiful shot, his wrists unencumbered by the weight of history.

After four years of agony and over a decade of fruitless Game 7s the Ducks are finally the victors of a winner-take-all game — and now they are halfway to another Stanley Cup.

Ritchie scored the tiebreaker and John Gibson made 23 saves as the Ducks ended their streak of five straight Game 7 losses with a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers, advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three years.

Andrew Cogliano scored the tying goal midway through the second period for the Ducks, who had blown a 3-2 series lead and lost a Game 7 on home ice in four consecutive seasons.

The Ducks fell behind the Oilers just 3 minutes, 31 seconds into Game 7, but the rest of the night largely belonged to Anaheim, who finally showed some veteran mettle in the playoffs’ biggest crucible.

“We were down 1-0 for a little bit and we didn’t panic,” Ritchie said. “We actually started to play better once they scored, and we got another one and then we kind of brought it home with good defensive hockey.”

Ritchie beat Cam Talbot 3:21 into the third period, his second career playoff goal putting the Ducks ahead in a Game 7 for the first time in five years — and ahead of the Oilers for the first time in nearly 193 minutes since late in Game 4.

The Ducks ended their ignominious streak after the tense final minutes of a strong defensive performance to back Gibson’s best game of the post-season.

Anaheim are to host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals today.

“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,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said.

Getzlaf ended a monster series without a point on his 32nd birthday, but he contributed to a stellar defensive effort against NHL scoring champion Connor McDavid, who went scoreless in Game 7 and managed just five points in the series.

“It’s going to take some time to get over it, but I think there are a lot of positives we can take from this year,” McDavid said. “We won’t have to answer that experience question anymore, which is nice. Come next season, we’ll find ourselves in a similar spot and be able to look back on this, and feel that disappointment and know what that’s like.”

In Washington, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots as the Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 2-0 win over the Capitals.

The Sidney Crosby-led Penguins continued their playoff domination of Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals, winning the second-round series in Game 7.

Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist also scored for Pittsburgh, who next face the Ottawa Senators.

Rust made it 1-0 midway through the second period and Hornqvist doubled the lead early in the third.

“We expected them to come out hard, but we knew we had to be a little more aggressive tonight than we were in the last couple of games,” Crosby said.

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