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HELENE ELLIOTT

Ducks go full speed ahead, beat Sharks, 2-0

Ducks are outshot and outplayed, but they prevail against top-ranked Sharks in playoff series opener.

April 17, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

FROM SAN JOSE — So much for the value of playoff experience.

Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped 35 shots in his Stanley Cup playoff debut and made third-period goals by Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf stand up as the eighth-seeded Ducks upset the top-seeded Sharks, 2-0, Thursday at a stuffed and stunned HP Pavilion.

The first all-California playoff series since the Kings beat the then-Oakland Seals in a seven-game, first-round matchup in 1969 was intense from start to finish, played at a brisk pace and with enough hits to keep everyone alert.

The Ducks, who made a late-season push to get into the top eight in the West and then fell from the sixth seeding to the eighth on the final day of the regular season, were outshot, 35-17, and were outplayed most of the game.

But in keeping with their strong road record during the regular season -- they had been 22-15-4 away from Anaheim and 20-18-3 at home -- they ignored the hostile crowd of 17,496 and prevailed when Niedermayer rifled home a shot from the right circle while Jonathan Cheechoo was serving a tripping penalty.

Getzlaf added an insurance goal at 17:35, dashing out of the penalty box to intercept a pass in the neutral zone and fire a 35-foot shot past Evgeni Nabokov.

"I was just happy to get the start and show what I'm capable of," Hiller said. "I also know we've got to keep going. We got kind of lucky to win, but we'll take it.

"Now San Jose almost has to win the next one, so it puts more pressure on them."

The first period featured many hits, few stoppages and a thrillingly rapid pace. Todd McLellan, who had the last line change as the home team's coach, elected to send out his big line of Joe Thornton between Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi against the Ducks' top line of Getzlaf centering for Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry. That decision produced some intense battles and an exciting 20 minutes of hockey.

The lone penalty in the period was called on Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle for dumping Drew Miller in the neutral zone at 18:30. The Ducks couldn't capitalize before the period ended or during the 30 seconds that carried over to the second period.

Soon enough they had their own penalty to worry about, when Rob Niedermayer held Douglas Murray and went to the box at 1:30. San Jose's best chance was a backhander by Setoguchi that Hiller went to his knees to stop.

Rob Niedermayer was sent off again at 7:22. Mike Brown did an especially good job to stymie the Sharks, hustling for the puck and battling at every turn.

The sellout crowd, raucous as ever, reached a fever pitch about 10 minutes into the period when Christian Ehrhoff carried the puck and threw it in front, into a crowd. The fans were wishing it over the goal line, but Getzlaf cleared it away.

The Ducks took their third straight penalty -- no shock there -- at 11:46. Sheldon Brookbank was called for interfering with Travis Moen along the boards after delivering a crunching hit to the former Duck.

At that point the Sharks had a 17-7 edge in shots, and they took three during that power play, including a blast from the right point by Rob Blake that Hiller stopped with his pad.

The Ducks got their second power play of the game, at 16:52, after Ryane Clowe was penalized for elbowing Chris Pronger. They produced one good chance, a close-in jab at the puck by Teemu Selanne that hit the outside of the net. Nabokov stopped one shot with his chest, prompting a chant of "Nab-by" from the crowd.

Rob Niedermayer made his third visit to the penalty box before the period ended. He was caught hooking Clowe to prevent a scoring chance in the Ducks' zone at 19:13, an excusable infraction under the circumstances.

Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks' cornerstone defenseman, missed a few shifts late in the second period and appeared to be laboring in the third, noticeable mainly because he's normally such a fluid skater. If he was hurting, it wasn't apparent when he set up and scored the Ducks' first goal.

Ryan Whitney took a shot that caromed off someone in front, and Scott Niedermayer gathered it onto his stick. He passed it back to the blue line to Whitney, who quickly relayed it to Ryan Getzlaf on the left-wing boards. Getzlaf made a cross-ice pass to Scott Niedermayer, who rifled it past Nabokov at 5:18.

"We probably took a couple too many penalties, but we managed to get it done," Scott Niedermayer said.

The Ducks survived a few scares. The Sharks' Ehrhoff hit the post at 8:02, as did Dan Boyle at 18:56.

Their success can only make the time go by happily until Game 2 here Sunday, while the Sharks were left to brood -- and, maybe, to wonder if this spring holds yet another playoff failure for them.

--

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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