Ducks must face their demons in an­other Game 7

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

ED­MON­TON – The Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers are forc­ing the Ana­heim Ducks to face their Game 7 play­off demons.

Their Western Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal is go­ing the dis­tance af­ter Ed­mon­ton’s de­ci­sive 7-1 vic­tory Sun­day.

The win­ner of Wed­nes­day’s Game 7 in Ana­heim meets the Nashville Preda­tors in the con­fer­ence fi­nal.

The Ducks have lost a Game 7 in their own build­ing each of the last four years.

“The big test is coming up,” Oil­ers coach Todd McLel­lan said. “We’re go­ing to have to park this one quickly and get ready for a big bat­tle down there.”

Leon Drai­saitl led the Oil­ers with a hat trick and Mark Letestu scored twice Sun­day. Ed­mon­ton also got goals from Zack Kas­sian and An­ton Slepy­chev in front a eu­phoric wall of orange at Rogers Place.

Oil­ers goal­tender Cam Tal­bot turned away 34-of-35 shots for the win.

“Ob­vi­ously the sea­son was on the line and we all had to step it up a notch and the whole group did,” Drai­saitl said.

Ed­mon­ton sprinted to a six-goal lead by the first minute of the sec­ond pe­riod be­fore the Ducks coun­tered with a lone goal from Rickard Rakell.

“For us to come out in the sec­ond pe­riod and get that sixth goal, that was big,” Letestu said.

“It showed we weren’t go­ing to get back on our heels and pos­si­bly let them get back into the hockey game.”

The Oil­ers scor­ing three goals on their first six shots prompted Ana­heim to re­place John Gib­son with Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 24of-29 shots in re­lief.

Ana­heim is un­der pres­sure to re­verse a play­off trend.

The Ducks were elim­i­nated in the first rounds of 2016 (Nashville) and 2013 (Detroit), the sec­ond round of 2014 (Los An­ge­les) and the third round of 2015 (Chicago) in sev­enth games at the Honda Cen­ter.

What’s more, the Ducks led each of those se­ries 3-2 be­fore back-to­back losses ended their sea­sons.

“Half of the guys in here haven’t been here for that stuff,” Ducks cap­tain Ryan Get­zlaf said.

“We’re go­ing back with the prepa­ra­tion to be ready for a big game. It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter what the sit­u­a­tion is. It is still win or go home.”

The Oil­ers won twice in Ana­heim to open this se­ries and nar­rowly lost Game 5 there in dou­ble over­time.

Ed­mon­ton’s last Game 7 was the 2006 Stan­ley Cup fi­nal, which they lost 3-1 to the Carolina Hur­ri­canes in Raleigh, N.C.

Rogers Place was sen­si­tive to of­fi­ci­at­ing Sun­day given the per­ceived in­jus­tice of al­low­ing Fri­day’s ty­ing goal to with­stand a goal­tender in­ter­fer­ence chal­lenge.

The Oil­ers were up 3-0 and on the cusp of tak­ing a 3-2 se­ries lead home when the Ducks be­came just the sec­ond team in NHL play­off his­tory to erase a three-goal deficit in the last four min­utes of reg­u­la­tion.

Ducks cen­tre Ryan Kesler had his glove on Tal­bot’s pad when Rakell put a back­hand be­tween his pads to tie it with 15 sec­onds re­main­ing.

Corey Perry then scored the dou­ble-over­time win­ner.

Ed­mon­ton was also up 2-0 af­ter the first pe­riod of Game 4 at home, only to lose 4-3 in over­time.

So, the Oil­ers were a team on a mis­sion in Game 6.

“What we ex­pe­ri­enced in Game 4 and 5 with two come­backs by them, we knew we had to keep our foot on the gas pedal and the hockey gods gave us a chance in Game 7,” Oil­ers for­ward Mi­lan Lu­cic said.

Drai­saitl has a team-lead­ing four goals and nine as­sists in the se­ries.

Ball caps rained onto the ice when he com­pleted his hat trick on a give-and-go with Lu­cic in the sec­ond pe­riod.

“I don’t score that much so it’s cool to see for sure,” Drai­saitl said.

Both cap­tains —Get­zlaf and Ed­mon­ton’s Con­nor McDavid — were held off the score­sheet.

The Oil­ers won more face­offs for the first time in the se­ries 39-32.

JA­SON FRANSON, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers cel­e­brate a goal against the Ana­heim Ducks dur­ing the first pe­riod of Game 6 Sun­day.

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