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Ducks reach West finals

They eliminate Canucks with a 2-1 win in double overtime in Game 5. Big hit by Rob Niedermayer leads to the decisive goal by his brother Scott.

May 04, 2007|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

In a split second, on the unlikeliest of shots, a long night of frustration for the Ducks instantly turned into elation.

Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo had stopped nearly every kind of shot imaginable in more than 80 minutes Thursday night. But it was a long, unscreened shot from the blue line by Scott Niedermayer, a shot that Luongo usually eats up without much effort, that propelled the Ducks into the Western Conference finals.

Niedermayer's goal at 4 minutes 30 seconds of the second overtime gave the Ducks a 2-1 Game 5 victory and the best-of-seven series before a delirious sellout crowd at the Honda Center.

The Ducks have advanced to the conference finals in consecutive seasons and will await the winner of the series between San Jose and Detroit, which is tied at two games apiece. Game 1 will be in Anaheim if San Jose wins or in Detroit if the Red Wings prevail.

Niedermayer's first goal of the postseason came on the team's 63rd shot, a franchise record for a postseason game. Luongo, who sat out part of the first overtime because of an equipment problem, had stopped 56 of them in a show-stopping performance.

Except for one moment, when Luongo let his concentration wander.

"I just put it in front," Niedermayer said. "I don't know if I had to rush my shot or whatever, but I took it quickly."

The Ducks' captain was able to get the shot because of a jarring hit by his brother, Rob, on Vancouver rookie Jannik Hansen. Luongo appeared to motion for the referee when the puck surprised him.

Afterward, Luongo said he thought the hit deserved an elbowing penalty.

"I'd have to see the video, but I sort of felt like I was starting to back up because the play was starting to come out," Scott Niedermayer said. "When [Rob] made the hit, I was able to stop and make the shot."

Rob Niedermayer said he was able to come on the ice for Shawn Thornton, who teamed with Brad May on the game's decisive shift.

"I just came in late and I don't think that guy saw me at all," Rob said. "I just kind of stepped up on him and Scott was able to put it by Luongo there."

May started the sequence by tying up the puck in the left corner of the Canucks' zone for an extended period. That allowed for a line change as he and fellow fourth-liner Thornton controlled play deep to keep Vancouver defenders busy.

"You just have to be ready right down to the 20th man," May said.

Until that point, Luongo had stymied the Ducks time and again. And when he dealt with an equipment problem that delayed his return for the first overtime, Canucks backup Dany Sabourin also foiled the Ducks by making five saves in the first 3:34.

Samuel Pahlsson gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead 14 seconds into the second period and the goal seemed to be enough to stand up over the course of a game the Ducks thoroughly dominated for long stretches, if not entire periods.

But Alex Burrows tied it midway through the third.

Luongo was seemingly under constant siege. Twenty-two shots came his way in the second period. Not one found the net thanks to his glorious play.

"There wouldn't have been a hockey game tonight if it weren't for Roberto," Vancouver Coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's the reason we went into double overtime."

The Ducks were determined not to allow frustration to set in.

"We just had to stay with it and believe that what we were doing was going to pay off," Scott Niedermayer said.

Stellar goaltending wasn't limited to one end of the ice. Lost in the deserved hype of Luongo, the Hart and Vezina Trophy candidate, has been the Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Giguere stopped 26 shots in Game 5 and gave up only eight goals in the five games.

"Both goaltenders played great," Rob Niedermayer said. "What can you say about Luongo? We had more than 60 shots and we threw everything at him. He played great."

eric.stephens@latimes.com

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