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DENVER (AP) - Anaheim's stingy defense and red-hot rookie goaltender are headed to the Western Conference finals after they get some well-deserved rest.
The Mighty Ducks completed a sweep of the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 Thursday night and could get a week or more off as they wait to see who they'll play next, San Jose or Edmonton.
Todd Marchant, Teemu Selanne and Dustin Penner scored goals following breakdowns by Avs defenseman Patrice Brisebois, and 25-year-old Russian rookie Ilya Bryzgalov was again brilliant in goal for the Ducks, who are moving on to the conference finals for the second time in three seasons.
"I look at the puck and stop the puck, it's everything I try to do," Bryzgalov said with his familiar aw-shucks shrug. "Tonight, I don't think about how tough a shot, how heavy a shot. Just try to stop it."
And he did, over and over again.
Bryzgalov's 40 saves capped a dazzling series that included two wins on the road after his shutout streak was snapped at three games and just shy of 250 minutes, the longest by a rookie and second best in NHL playoff history.
"Tonight was his best game of the series," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "He was the biggest reason we won the game."
Anaheim, which stifled Colorado's Fab Four of Joe Sakic, Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk and Andrew Brunette all series long, handed the Avs their first sweep in 26 playoff series since they arrived from Quebec before the 1995-96 season.
The sixth-seeded Ducks earned some time off along the way. They're the only team that hasn't had a skip day between playoff games, having played every other day since April 21 and making three trips to Calgary and one to Denver.
San Jose is up 2-1 in the other Western Conference semifinal series with Game 4 scheduled for Friday night at Edmonton.
"As a coach you like to have a couple of days where we can look back and recharge our batteries and look forward to the next one," Carlyle said.
The Ducks stretched their streak to 36 consecutive penalties killed by turning away all five of Colorado's power plays. The Avs finished 0-for-24 on the power play in the series and ended the season in an 0-for-33 slump over six games.
"I've said it before: the best penalty killer is your goaltender," Marchant said. "He was unbelievable again tonight and he made some unbelievable saves."
Although their defense was tight, the Ducks were loose.
After they took a 3-0 lead in the series on Joffrey Lupul's four-goal game Tuesday night, Carlyle called an optional practice Wednesday. More players participated in a pickup soccer game in the hallways of the Pepsi Center than took the ice.
The Avs, meanwhile, were dumbfounded as to how their offensive fireworks against Dallas in the first round turned into such duds against the Ducks.
They appeared to have the tenacity to send the series back to California when they came out playing fast and furious, and Sakic sent a wrist shot from the left circle past Bryzgalov just 2:17 after the opening faceoff.
However, they failed to extend their lead during a nearly four-minute stretch when they had a man advantage, and Brisebois, whose turnover led to Lupul's overtime goal in Game 3, had a trio of defensive breakdowns that led to Anaheim goals.
Brisebois missed the check on Penner late in the first period. When Kurt Sauer moved over to help, that left Marchant free, and he put the puck past Jose Theodore for the tying goal, his first of the playoffs.
Chris Kunitz beat Brisebois to the puck, washing out an icing call early in the second period. Andy McDonald got the puck out of the corner and fed it to former Avs forward Selanne for his fifth goal of the playoffs and a 2-1 Anaheim lead.
Early in the third, Lupul passed the puck out of the zone, and Brisebois whiffed at it at the opposite blue line, leading to a 3-on-1 Ducks break. Marchant passed to Penner for the goal at 6:07.
"I had some problems," Brisebois said. "The second goal I really had trouble. I know it was icing and I lost sight of the puck. I never saw the guy go by me. I tried to touch up the puck and I didn't get it. I went to the other side and that guy beat me to it.
"After that I couldn't do anything."
Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said the Avs will have to reshape themselves this offseason to match the faster pace that the Ducks displayed all series.
"Look at the teams that are leading and still alive in the playoffs, from top to bottom they have quickness," he said. "You can call it the Super Trifecta: they have size, they have speed, they have skill, and they have youth."
And now they have some time off to catch their breath, too.
Notes: The Ducks' other sweeps both came in 2003, over Detroit and Minnesota on their way to the Stanley Cup finals, which they lost to New Jersey in seven games.
|Joe Sakic (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Alex Tanguay (4), Andrew Brunette (6)|
1 - 0 COL
|Todd Marchant (1) Backhand shot - ASST: Dustin Penner (5), Scott Niedermayer (5)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Teemu Selanne (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Chris Kunitz (5), Andy McDonald (5)|
2 - 1 ANA
|Dustin Penner (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Todd Marchant (6), Joffrey Lupul (1)|
3 - 1 ANA
|EN - Todd Marchant (2) Backhand shot - ASST: Sean O'Donnell (2)|
4 - 1 ANA
|Francois Beauchemin Tripping against Alex Tanguay|
|Andrew Brunette Holding the stick against Rob Niedermayer|
|Scott Niedermayer Tripping against Brett Clark|
|Ilya Bryzgalov Tripping against Brett McLean|
|Ruslan Salei Hooking against Brad May|
|Scott Niedermayer Holding the stick|
|Joe Sakic Hooking against Andy McDonald|
|Jim Dowd Roughing against Ruslan Salei|
|Jim Dowd Misconduct (10 min)|
|SA: 41||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 40||EV: 32 - 33|
|PIM: 2||PP: 7 - 7|
|SV%: .976||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 33||TOI: 59:41|
|Saves: 30||EV: 22 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 6|
|SV%: .909||SH: 2 - 2|
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