|Ducks look to finish off Senators in Ottawa|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 May 2007 13:36|
The most successful hockey team in Southern California history carried a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals to Canada's capital city, full of confidence and holding a tinge of hope that when they return home after Game 4 they will be in possession of the cherished chalice that was unveiled in Ottawa in 1892.
On the strength of winning goals by checking-line forwards Travis Moen and Samuel Pahlsson, the Ducks swept their first two home games and improved to 5-0 in Cup finals games in Anaheim. They won all three during the 2003 championship series against New Jersey but dropped four on the road.
They can earn their first finals win away from home in Game 3 on Saturday after the series takes a two-day break. Game 4 is Monday.
``This is a totally different season this year,'' said goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the MVP of the playoffs four years ago. ``Our team is a lot more talented. We have a lot more offensive power and a lot more size. It just makes my job much easier.''
Giguere needed to make only 16 saves Wednesday night to earn a 1-0 victory and post his sixth career playoff shutout - the first this year. His biggest test came when the Ducks killed off their second 5-on-3 disadvantage of the series, this one lasting 1:07 of the first period and producing the bulk of the Senators' offensive chances during their seven-shot frame.
The rest of the work was done in front where Pahlsson, Moen and Rob Niedermayer again shut down the potent top line of the Senators that has generated no goals and two assists in two games.
Not only aren't Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley scoring, the trio has also become a defensive liability. They committed 11 turnovers as a group Wednesday, and for the second straight game they were on the ice for the winning goal against in the closing minutes of the third period.
After resisting temptation in the series opener on Monday, Senators coach Bryan Murray split up the line for parts of all three periods in Game 2 with the hope that spreading the players out would create matchup problems for the Ducks.
No such luck.
``We're expected to score goals,'' Spezza said. ``It's not a lack of effort. We're trying. ... We didn't score those early goals. We know we have to be better.''
It's not just the lack of scoring that is troublesome for the Senators, it's their inability to sustain any kind of offensive attack when skating at even strength. Anaheim held a 32-20 shots advantage in the opener and stretched that to 63-36 through two games.
Ottawa enjoyed only one power play after the 5-on-3 and managed a total of nine shots over the final 40 minutes. The Ducks dominated throughout, registering 31 shots, and just had to figure a way to get a puck past goalie Ray Emery.
When Heatley turned the puck over, it gave Pahlsson a chance to get Senators defenseman Joe Corvo spinning around. That provided a screen that prevented Emery from seeing the precise wrist shot.
It was the Ducks' 11th one-goal victory in 13 such games - one win shy of the playoff record shared by Anaheim (2003) and Montreal (1993) - and second of this series.
The way Ottawa scored in winning each of its first three series in five games, even the defensive-minded Ducks couldn't have figured to capture two straight victories on the strength of four goals.
``We have to raise the level,'' Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne said. ``They're going to be better. We want to be better. We'll go from there.''
The Senators will be met by an excited city that will host the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1927 when the original version of the team won its fourth title. The welcome celebration in Ottawa could be tempered due to the daunting task the hometown team faces of having to win four of the final five games.
``We've kind of done our job,'' Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger said. ``We've won our two home games, and let's face it you're supposed to win your home games. Now it's in their court.''
Only once in 30 chances has the road team dropped the first two games and rallied to take the Cup. There are just three of 42 instances in which a club erased a 2-0 deficit in the finals and won.
``It's disappointing we didn't get a win, but we can't hang our heads,'' defenseman Chris Phillips said. ``There's a lot of pride in this room and we're going home now.''