ANAHEIM (AP) — Nick Ritchie scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period, and the Anaheim Ducks ended their streak of five straight Game 7 losses with a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night, 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.
After a rally from an early deficit and a strong defensive performance to back John Gibson’s 23 saves, the Ducks ended their ignominious streak and moved halfway to the franchise’s second Stanley Cup title.
Anaheim will host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the conference finals Friday night.
Drake Caggiula got credit for a goal 3:31 into the first period for the Oilers, and Cam Talbot made 28 saves. Edmonton’s first playoff run since 2006 ended with four losses in five games, but the Oilers’ young talent seems certain to make them a major factor in the West for years.
The time is now for the five-time Pacific Division champion Ducks on the 10-year anniversary of their 2007 championship.
They showed grit and guile while bouncing back from a blowout loss in Game 6 and yet another early deficit in a seventh game, silencing the echoes of past winner-take-all events. Anaheim hadn’t won a Game 7 since 2006, when they were still the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Ritchie, the 21-year-old power forward in his first playoff campaign, fired a beautiful wrist shot past Talbot on a pass from Corey Perry 3:21 into the third period. Ritchie’s second career playoff goal put 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.
Captain Ryan 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.
Edmonton took an early lead when young Anaheim defenseman Shea Theodore curiously tried to carry the puck out from behind the Ducks’ net and right in front of Gibson. Caggiula skated up and challenged Theodore, who appeared to whip the puck accidentally backward and past Gibson.
The now-familiar hush of fear fell over Honda Center, and it grew when Anaheim took a penalty late in the first. But the Ducks killed the power play spanning the intermission and then gradually increased their push.
Cogliano finally cashed in for the Ducks when he slipped in front of Talbot and hacked home his first goal of the postseason. Cogliano ended a personal 13-game playoff goal drought for the speedy ex-Oilers forward who hasn’t missed a game in his entire 10-year NHL career.
Anaheim outshot Edmonton 16-3 in that dominant second period but couldn’t take the lead. At least the Ducks didn’t face a multi-goal deficit heading to the third for the first time during their five-year streak of Game 7 drama.
NOTES: D Oscar Klefbom returned to Edmonton’s lineup after missing Game 6 with an upper-body injury. … Anaheim was without two key injured veterans. D Kevin Bieksa missed his sixth straight game, while F Patrick Eaves missed his fourth straight game with a leg injury. The late-season acquisition has played in a Game 7 seven times in his career, most among the Ducks. … Mike Trout and Garrett Richards crossed Katella Avenue from Angel Stadium to watch the game.
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