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HELENE ELLIOTT

Sharks get a lesson in ferocity

Top-seeded San Jose could learn a thing or two about playoff toughness from the Ducks.

April 25, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

To say the Ducks have gutted the San Jose Sharks in taking a 3-1 lead in their playoff series wouldn't quite be accurate.

That would assume the Sharks had some fortitude in the first place.

The Ducks are poised to apply the final touches on yet another postseason failure for the top-seeded Sharks, leaving "Jumbo" Joe Thornton to retain his nickname only for purposes of describing the enormity of his soft play.

"Jumbo" also quantifies the failure that a loss to the eighth-seeded Ducks would be for the Sharks, who fired their coach and rebuilt their defense last summer but forgot the value of character and sheer will come playoff time.

For a reminder of what it takes to win when the checking is as tight as their collective grip on their sticks, the Sharks needed only to look at the feats of the Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry line in the 4-0 victory Thursday that put the Ducks in position to advance to the second round with a victory tonight at HP Pavilion.

All three were gritty, determined and active. They were unstoppable down low, bowling over the Sharks' meek forwards and blitzing through a flailing defense.

"I think we had our legs and our mind-set was right where it needed to be," Perry said Friday after the Ducks practiced at the Honda Center. "When all three of us are on the same page and going, it's hard.

"We like to play with the puck down low and keep control of it and not just give it back. We don't like playing that chance game, where we take one shot then it's back in our zone, where they take a shot. We kept sustained pressure, and when we're doing that we're at our best."

They were in fine form Thursday in backing a 31-save performance from Jonas Hiller, the second time the Ducks had shut out a team that was blanked only twice during the regular season. "It didn't really matter who we put on the ice," Sharks Coach Todd McLellan said of his team's efforts to stop the Getzlaf line.

And there's the problem.

McLellan has only a handful of players who can -- or will -- compete as hard as the Ducks' top trio has in this series.

Getzlaf was brilliant at both ends of the ice Thursday. He played 21 minutes 51 seconds, won 15 of 19 faceoffs, set up two goals and was a plus-3 defensively. Perry was his usual abrasive self, also plus-3, with a goal and an assist. Ryan, the dynamic rookie, was an unerring finisher in scoring the first two goals.

"We were playing with a lot of energy, emotions, and everything," Getzlaf said. "We knew what was at stake.

"When our line's playing well we're controlling the puck, and that's what we've got to do every night."

They need to do it only once more against the Sharks to advance to a second-round matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, who swept the Columbus Blue Jackets.

If the Ducks can't end it tonight, a sixth game will be played Monday at the Honda Center. A seventh game, if necessary, would be played Wednesday at San Jose.

But here's something else for the Sharks to chomp on: The Ducks have never lost a playoff series in which they had a 2-1 lead. They're also good at seizing the moment, compiling a 10-3 record in games in which they had a chance to close out a series.

After two of those losses--in the second round against Dallas in 2003 and in the first round against Minnesota in 2007 -- they won the next game and advanced. The exception was Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, which they lost to the New Jersey Devils.

"We don't think they're going to roll over. They're a good hockey team and the No. 1 team in the league," Getzlaf said. "They have a lot of pressure on them right now and we're going to go in and try to take a win."

Getzlaf and Perry have been through the playoff grind before with the Ducks' 2007 Cup team. Ryan played two games in the Ducks' six-game opening-round loss to Dallas last spring but this is the first time he has being counted upon to produce.

Talented though he is, Ryan had a couple of strikes against him in the eyes of Coach Randy Carlyle: he was a rookie, and he was a rookie. Carlyle rides him hard, but Ryan is a smarter, better player for it now, when it matters.

"To some degree it's, 'Oh, here we go,' " Ryan said of Carlyle's pushing. "But I'm still learning the ropes. I'm still coming along. There's a lot of room for improvement. He'll let you know, that's for sure. I don't mind."

Getzlaf and Perry, who went through the same process, are helping Ryan survive Carlyle's prodding.

"Randy's still like that with me," said Getzlaf, not quite 24 and a franchise center in the mold of a Joe Sakic. "I'm still a young player and improving. That's definitely something Randy will never lay off. He'll probably still be doing that until we're 30 years old."

The Sharks probably will still be seeking the answer to their playoff failures until then too.

--

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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