Ducks blank Sharks again, take 3-1 series lead
ANAHEIM ” In between Bobby Ryan’s two electric goals in a 4-minute span of Game 4, Anaheim’s remarkable rookie accidentally broke a big pane of glass between the benches.
The Ducks will soon find out whether they also shattered the top-seeded San Jose Sharks’ will with their 4-0 victory Thursday night. Ryan has a feeling his underdog club is awfully close to that breakthrough.
“I don’t think they certainly expected this,” Ryan said. “We have said all along we’re not your typical 8 seed. We think we belong in that upper echelon in the Western Conference. A roller-coaster year put us there, but we thought we could make some noise, and it’s showing on their faces.”
Jonas Hiller backed Ryan’s scoring with 31 saves in his second playoff shutout as the Ducks rocked their rivals yet again, taking a 3-1 lead. Game 5 is Saturday night at the Shark Tank, where Anaheim already won twice in the first-round series.
Corey Perry had a late goal and an assist, and Ryan Getzlaf added two assists as the Ducks emphatically moved within one victory of becoming the eighth No. 8 seed to win an NHL playoff series since 1994.
Their dynamic top line of Getzlaf, Ryan and Perry again was relentless, ignoring the Sharks’ defense and dominating puck possession. Ryan, the Ducks’ 22-year-old Calder Trophy finalist, has four goals in the four-game series, while Getzlaf has five points.
When Anaheim also clamped down on Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the Sharks’ top scorers, Hiller’s job was relatively easy.
“They almost had no chance for rebounds,” Hiller said. “I saw the puck quite well. … I think everybody knows the fourth game is the most difficult to win. I think we showed a reaction tonight after the last game, where we were not happy how we played. Tonight, everybody was fighting and giving a little more.”
Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves in another unspectacular effort for the Sharks. Although they won the Presidents’ Trophy with a franchise-best 117 points, they’re now one game away from the worst postseason flop yet in a recent history full of embarrassing faceplants.
San Jose was knocked out in the second round in each of the past three seasons, leading to coach Ron Wilson’s firing. The Sharks have never advanced past the conference finals ” and unless their top two lines awaken from their four-game slumber, the franchise could be in for a wholesale overhaul.
“I’m not surprised that they were hungry. I’m disappointed that we weren’t,” said Todd McLellan, the Sharks’ rookie coach. “That’s the only word I can use: disappointed. I think our character was questioned tonight, and we’ll have to see how we respond.”
McLellan didn’t single out any culprits, but a few were obvious: Thornton has just two assists in the series; Marleau has one goal after scoring 38 in the regular season; and San Jose’s dependable second line of Joe Pavelski, Milan Michalek and Ryane Clowe has combined for three points, including no goals for Pavelski or Michalek.
“We have to find a way to score more goals,” said Nabokov, whose save percentage for the series is below 90 percent. “When you’re losing the series, a lot of things get questioned. Obviously, there’s something they’re doing right, and something we’re not doing right.”
Ryan was the NHL’s rookie leader with 31 goals and 57 points despite not joining the Ducks until mid-November, and he’s been just as good in the postseason. He was selected a Calder finalist Wednesday, although the modest American said he’d vote for Columbus goalie Steve Mason.
He opened Game 4’s scoring early in the second period, dangling in the slot before beating Nabokov. Ryan was serenaded with chants of “Bobby! Bobby!” ” and moments later, his errant stick broke the glass, causing a roughly 20-minute delay.
Less than a minute after play resumed, Ryan found himself alone in nearly the same spot in the slot, where he slammed home a rebound of Perry’s shot.
Drew Miller added an empty-net goal with 40.1 seconds left.
Notes: Anaheim made the only roster adjustment for either team from Game 3, scratching C Petteri Nokelainen and putting Ryan Carter on the ice for the first time in the series. … A 3.8-magnitude earthquake hit Orange County about 2 1/2 hours before game time, and an aftershock gently rocked the Honda Center between the first two periods. … D Francois Beauchemin is the only other Ducks rookie to score two goals in a playoff game, doing it April 25, 2006, against Calgary.
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