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GAME: Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference finals; Oilers lead 1-0.
TIME: Sunday, 9 p.m. EDT.
Two nights after having an impressive winning streak stopped, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks must return the favor or risk not playing on home ice again this season.
While rust may have been a factor in the series opener, the Ducks will have no such excuse against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
Though this is not a must-win for Anaheim, it might seem that way. The Ducks can ill-afford to fall into an 0-2 hole headed to hockey-crazed Edmonton, where they have lost 12 consecutive games since Feb. 24, 1999.
"We have got to play our best game of the series," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
Carlyle's club had won six consecutive playoff games heading into this series, including a four-game semifinal sweep of Colorado that ended on May 11.
"You're not expecting to have a winning streak all the way through this," Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer said. "You're going to lose games. It's a matter of how you respond and how you play the next day or next two days."
The Oilers had only one day off following their semifinal triumph over San Jose, and the momentum carried into Game 1 as they defeated the Ducks 3-1.
Now it's Edmonton looking to protect a five-game winning streak and claim its first 2-0 lead in a playoff series since 1990, when the team won the last of its five Stanley Cups. In 18 series in which they have taken a 2-0 lead, the Oilers have never lost.
"It's one game away from going up 2-0 and going back to Edmonton. You know, that's an advantage," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "The next game's always the most important game of the series, but it really presents us with a real terrific opportunity to get that game and put them in a very difficult position."
The Ducks have won only once in the last 13 meetings with the Oilers, including a four-game sweep during the regular season. This series heads to Edmonton for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.
Anaheim had killed off its opponents' last 39 power plays before giving up a man-advantage goal to Ales Hemsky in the second period, and that turned out to be the game-winner.
Andy McDonald scored the Ducks' only goal on a power play in the first period. It was just the fourth goal Edmonton has allowed in its last 53 short-handed situations.
Dwayne Roloson has been a big reason for the Oilers' solid penalty killing, and even assisted on Michael Peca's short-handed goal in the first period of Game 1. Roloson also made 31 saves, and has a 1.58 goals-against average during the five-game win streak.
"Every once in a while I'll make a save, but the guys are blocking shots and doing all the little things," Roloson said of his team's penalty kill. "(Friday) night, there was a shot I couldn't see and (Chris Pronger) makes a skate save and a beauty and puts it into the corner. The guys are doing all the little things in front of me and they're doing a better job than I am."
His counterpart also played well Friday, but rookie Ilya Bryzgalov suffered just his second loss in eight starts this postseason. Bryzgalov, who allowed two goals on 25 shots, had surrendered just five goals during Anaheim's six-game win streak.
"There's no ifs, ands, or buts, the butterflies fly and the nervousness and the energy that's expanded goes to a whole different level," Carlyle said of the playoffs. "I would expect that would be higher than it was in the last game. And that's the way the playoffs are. As you go deeper into them, each one is that much more difficult to win and it's much more important to win."
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Oilers - 95 points; 8th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, quarterfinals; beat San Jose Sharks 4-2, semifinals. Mighty Ducks - 98 points; 6th seed; beat Calgary Flames 4-3, quarterfinals; beat Colorado Avalanche 4-0, semifinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Fernando Pisani, 7 goals; Pronger, 11 assists; Horcoff, 15 points; Georges Laraque, 17 PIM. Mighty Ducks - Lupul, 7 goals and 27 PIM; Niedermayer, Todd Marchant and Francois Beauchemin, 6 assists; Teemu Selanne, 10 points.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Oilers - Power play: 20.8 percent (15 for 72). Penalty killing: 86.7 percent (72 for 83). Mighty Ducks - Power play: 12.7 percent (9 for 71). Penalty killing: 90.3 percent (65 for 72).
GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Roloson (9-4, 1 SO, 2.08 GAA); Jussi Markkanen (no appearances). Mighty Ducks - Bryzgalov (6-2, 3, 1.00); Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2-2, 3.87).
|May 19 '06||EDM 3 at ANA 1||A. Hemsky|
|May 21 '06||EDM 3 at ANA 1||F. Pisani|
|May 23 '06||ANA 4 at EDM 5||F. Pisani|
|May 25 '06||ANA 6 at EDM 3||R. Salei|
|May 27 '06||EDM 2 at ANA 1||R. Torres|
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