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GAME: Anaheim Mighty Ducks at Edmonton Oilers.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference finals; Oilers lead 2-0.
TIME: Tuesday, 8 p.m. EDT.
The Edmonton Oilers are returning home with a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. Because they're facing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, that series advantage seems even bigger.
Edmonton looks to push Anaheim to the brink of elimination at Rexall Place, where the Ducks have lost 12 straight games, when the teams meet for Game 3.
Dwayne Roloson turned in another strong game in goal Sunday night with 33 saves, and Fernando Pisani and Chris Pronger scored key goals as the Oilers beat the Ducks 3-1 for the second game in a row. For the Ducks to stay alive in the series, they'll have to win at least one of the next two games in Edmonton - a place they haven't won since Feb. 24, 1999.
As dire as the situation seems for Anaheim, though, Oilers coach Craig MacTavish doesn't want his team to use that recent history as a reason to ease up.
"We want to go back there with the mentality that we're down 2-0 and have a real hunger," MacTavish said. "Not that we won't anyway, but we want to play the type of hockey we played against San Jose (in the second round) when we were down 2-0.
"And to ride the emotion that our fans are going to give us in our own building and really make home ice a real advantage for us."
The biggest factor again for Edmonton, though, is likely to be Roloson. That was the case in the first two games, when the 36-year-old goalie led his club to road victories even though the Oilers were outshot both times.
Roloson's play is exactly what Edmonton envisioned when it acquired him from Minnesota in March to stabilize the position with a veteran who could lead the team deep into the playoffs. Roloson has a 2.01 goals-against average in this postseason.
"He's giving us terrific goaltending," MacTavish said. "I was saying to the coaches after the game that it's amazing what that quality of goaltending does for your defensive zone coverage.
"He's really into it."
Roloson held Anaheim scoreless in the third period Sunday as the Ducks outshot the Oilers 10-4. He even picked up an assist on Michael Peca's empty-net goal with 18 seconds remaining after assisting on Peca's short-handed goal in the first period of Game 1.
The Oilers' goalie protected the one-goal lead given to him Sunday by Pisani, the Edmonton native who scored his team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs at 17:09 of the second period. The goal, on a shot that went through traffic in front of Anaheim goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and over his right shoulder, seemed to deflate the Ducks.
"It was a better effort than we had the other night, and we have to find a way to change the momentum," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We maintained a fairly good puck possession for periods of time, but we didn't find a way to get the puck inside often enough.
"Everything seems to be going their way at the moment, and we have to find some way to turn the tide."
One way might be a return to dominating form by the rookie Bryzgalov, who shut out Calgary in Game 7 of the first round before blanking Colorado in the next two games en route to Anaheim's four-game sweep. Bryzgalov has allowed only four goals in this series, as Edmonton has two empty netters, but he's been unable to match Roloson.
The Ducks also need to start to getting production from their top offensive players. Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald had a team-best 90 and 85 points this season, respectively, but Selanne is pointless in the first two games while McDonald has one goal. Both players have a minus-3 rating in the series.
It is crucial for Anaheim offensively to find a way to create more traffic in front of Roloson. Big Oilers defenseman Pronger and Jason Smith have led an outstanding effort by Edmonton to keep pucks out of the middle in its own zone.
"I think today's game was better where we had more chances and we could have scored more," Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "Obviously, their guy played well at net and made some big saves for them. Another game like that and I think we're going to find the back of the net more than we did tonight."
Anaheim will have to do that if it wants to beat Edmonton for just the second time in the last 15 meetings overall.
The Oilers are 13-0 in best-of-seven series when they win the first two games, although they haven't been in that situation since 1990, when they captured their fifth Stanley Cup.
Game 4 will be Thursday night at Rexall Place.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mighty Ducks - 6th seed; beat Calgary Flames 4-3, quarterfinals; beat Colorado Avalanche 4-0, semifinals. Oilers - 8th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, quarterfinals; beat San Jose Sharks 4-2, semifinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Mighty Ducks - Joffrey Lupul, 7 goals and 29 PIM; Niedermayer, Todd Marchant and Francois Beauchemin, 6 assists; Selanne, 10 points. Oilers - Pisani, 8 goals; Pronger, 11 assists; Shawn Horcoff, 15 points; Georges Laraque, 17 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Mighty Ducks - Power play: 11.8 percent (9 for 76). Penalty killing: 89.3 percent (67 for 75). Oilers - Power play: 21.3 percent (16 for 75). Penalty killing: 87.5 percent (77 for 88).
GOALTENDERS: Mighty Ducks - Bryzgalov (6-3, 3 SO, 1.10 GAA); Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2-2, 3.88). Oilers - Roloson (10-4, 2.01); Jussi Markkanen (no appearances).
|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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