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Most prognosticators gave the Anaheim Ducks little shot in their first-round playoff series against the Sharks. The Ducks deftly responded by seizing the first two games played at San Jose.
With the matchup moving to Honda Center for Game 3 on Tuesday, the Ducks will try to continue that momentum and put the Sharks into a deeper hole.
“Hopefully, we can just carry on what we’ve been doing on the road,” Andrew Ebbett said. “We know how big Game 3 is. We have a chance to go up 3-0. We want to capitalize on it for sure.”
Said Jonas Hiller: "Nobody was expecting us to do that well. We knew we had nothing to lose. Sometimes that is easier and takes off a little pressure. I think we’ve handled it pretty well. We also know to get to the next round, we need another two wins."
The Swiss netminder has been a big reason for Anaheim's success in the first two games of the Western Confererence Quarterfinals. In his first two career postseason games, Hiller has looked nothing like a playoff neophyte in stopping 77-of-79 shots fired by San Jose.
"Hillsy has made some big saves for us," Scott Niedermayer said. "He's played very well. When you see him out there and he's comfortable in there, we sense that. If you see a guy out there confident in what he's doing, not panicking and doing his job, it just adds confidence to the team overall."
Special teams play has also been critical thus far to the Ducks' fortunes. They have converted on 2-of-6 power play attempts and killed off each of their 12 penalties taken in the two games.
“That is what it’s about,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We’ve talked about it before. It’s just as important to prevent a goal as it is to score one in the playoffs. Goals are at premium right now. Everything that you can do on the defensive side of it improves your chances for success.”
|2009 Conference Quarterfinal|
Throughout the San Jose Sharks' outstanding regular season, rookie coach Todd McLellan always insisted the results didn't matter as much as the process.
Even while the Sharks racked up the best record in franchise history, he mostly praised their steady growth and consistent effort, not the growing pile of victories.
Trouble is, the Sharks' six outstanding months have counted for absolutely nothing in the first few days of the NHL playoffs.
With just two goals in two tight games, the Presidents' Trophy winners already are down 0-2 to the playoff-tested, results-oriented Ducks.
San Jose has struggled with the playoff equation for four years now. Three straight ousters in the postseason's second round led to coach Ron Wilson's firing and McLellan's arrival from the Detroit Red Wings, who were last season's champions - but also the last No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 8, when Edmonton pulled the upset in 2006.
The Ducks made the one-hour flight back to Anaheim after Game 2, enjoying the benefits of a relatively short postseason commute in a conference that sometimes requires trips to Nashville or Detroit from the West Coast.
Anaheim had divergent feelings after its outstanding playoff start. Center Ryan Getzlaf said the Ducks "never thought we'd go into their building and manage to steal a couple," but defenseman Chris Pronger disagreed while summing up the reasons for their wins.
"I don't think we're surprised," Pronger said. "I think we match up pretty well with San Jose, and on the other side, they're probably saying the same thing. We were fortunate to get some breaks and get some leads. Jonas has been great, and our specialty teams have been good."
Such an upset wouldn't be a real shock from a historic perspective on the NHL, where the eighth team in each conference's playoff bracket typically is much more competitive with the top clubs than in the NBA, for example.
Seven No. 8 seeds since 1994 have won first-round NHL playoff series, and the Ducks are no average eighth seed. Anaheim still has the veteran core of the club that won the Stanley Cup in 2007, but its indifferent play midway through this regular season nearly kept the Ducks out of the playoffs until their strong finish.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.