Oilers have matchup problem with Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf

ANAHEIM —  The Edmonton Oilers have a serious matchup problem in their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Ducks. It’s the same one the Calgary Flames had against the Ducks in the first round, which ended in a four-game sweep.

The problem stands 6-foot-4, weighs 221 pounds and answers to the name of Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks’ captain and top-line center. He’s been their most forceful player, their playoff leader with eight goals and 15 points after rallying them to a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 5.

Calgary never discovered an answer.

Edmonton’s search continues Sunday in Game 6 at Rogers Place.

Coach Randy Carlyle laughed a cruel laugh when a reporter wondered several hours before Getzlaf put his stamp on the Ducks’ historic Game 5 comeback at Honda Center how he might shut down the 12-season veteran if he were facing off against him.

“You really think I’m going to answer that?” Carlyle asked, clearly relishing his advantage in the on-ice chess match with Oilers coach Todd McLellan but also with the out-of-town reporter. “I’ve said this before, but I’ve never said it to a media person: Beat it.”

McLellan has tried a little of everything short of kidnapping over the years in an attempt to slow down Getzlaf, first as coach of the San Jose Sharks and now with the Oilers the past two seasons. Getzlaf tormented McLellan as never before with two goals and two assists in Game 4.

The Oilers tried to attack Getzlaf with their speed.

Didn’t work.

They tried to hit him and muscle him.

Didn’t work either.

Getzlaf’s virtuoso performance, which included the first two-goal playoff game of his career, propelled the Ducks to a 4-3 OT win Wednesday in Edmonton that evened the best-of-7 series, 2-2, setting up an all-important Game 5 on Friday. All eyes were trained on Getzlaf.

“Who’s kidding who?” McLellan said. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s got tremendous size, strength, skill, vision and experience. So, if you think that one type of game, one guy, is going to shut him down, it’s not going to happen that way. It’s going to have to be a group effort.”

Getzlaf exposed the Oilers’ weakness at center again in Game 5, igniting the Ducks’ rally from a 3-0 deficit with the first of their three goals in a span of 3 minutes, 1 second. Later, 6:57 into double-OT, he set up Corey Perry’s game-winning goal with a deft pass from along the left-wing boards.

There is literally no one who matches up with Getzlaf from a physical standpoint. The Oilers’ best center is Connor McDavid, who might very well be the best player in the NHL this season despite being only 20 years old. Getzlaf turns 32 next Wednesday, the date of a possible Game 7.

McLellan doesn’t want McDavid chasing Getzlaf around the ice. McLellan would be asking too much of his top player, likely restricting his offensive chances to only a handful in what very well might be another defensive exercise in futility for the remainder of the series.

Besides, McDavid had a rough time trying to rid himself of Ryan Kesler, the Ducks’ second-line center and all-around pest. McDavid has three goals and two assist in the series going into Game 6, fine numbers, to be sure, but no match for Getzlaf’s five goals and five assists.

“You want to be smart,” Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom said of trying to thwart Getzlaf. “You cannot go out there and think you can run him over and take the puck. He’s very strong on the ice. He wants you to engage so he can create the (open) ice for the other players, so you have to smart.

“He’s very tricky to play against.”

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Ducks stun Oilers with 3 late goals in regulation, take 3-2 series lead on Corey Perry’s goal in 2nd OT

ANAHEIM – Maligned often for his lack of production in the regular season and into the playoffs, Corey Perry found his scoring touch when it was needed to end an epic Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Perry scored his first goal of the series at 6:57 of the second overtime and the Ducks made an amazing late comeback at the end of regulation worth it in a shocking 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.

The Ducks were on the brink of elimination as they were trailing, 3-0, deep into the third period. It seemed as if Game 6 on Sunday in Edmonton would be one to stay alive and force a deciding seventh game back at Honda Center, where they had already lost twice and seemed destined for a third.

Meanwhile, the Oilers were in sight of the conference finals after a decade-long absence from the Stanley Cup playoffs.But these Ducks are managed to dip into their well of resilience when they appear ready to be counted out.

Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler scored 35 seconds apart within the final 3:16 of regulation and Rickard Rakell’s dramatic goal with 15 seconds left capped a stunning comeback and forced overtime. And after the first 20 extra minutes saw the Oilers get the better of the scoring chances, the Ducks converted on theirs.

Rakell kept the possession alive in the Oilers’ zone by winning a puck battle with Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse. Getzlaf got the puck with some space and gave Perry a pass as he headed toward the net. The winger made a move on Oilers goalie Cam Talbot and slid the puck in past his outstretched left skate.

It was a moment of elation for the Ducks and one of redemption for Perry, who had just 19 goals during the season. His only other goal in the playoffs was the Game 3 overtime winner against Calgary, which also capped a wild rally from three goals down.

Getzlaf started the comeback with a rocket of a slap shot that took another direction on Oilers goalie Cam Talbot after it skipped off teammate Leon Draisaitl’s block attempt in front. And then after pulling goalie John Gibson for an extra attacker, Fowler went crossbar down with a shot from the point.

The Ducks, in quick-strike fashion, now had an actual look at forging an improbable tie with 2:41 still on the clock. Gibson came off the ice again for another 6-on-5 advantage and Rakell got the puck, touching off a wild celebration on their bench and throughout the arena.

For a moment, the celebration was premature. Oilers coach Todd McLellan challenged the goal, claiming Talbot was interfered with during a mad scramble for the loose puck in front. Ryan Kesler appeared to have a hold of Talbot’s right pad as Rakell found the puck and got it past the goalie.

A review upheld the goal. It was determined that Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse initiated the contact by shoving Kesler into Talbot before the puck crossed the goal line. And the celebration was on again, stunning those who had left early after deciding that the Ducks were done.

Until Friday, neither team has yet to win a game in front of sellout crowds begging to be sent home in a state of delirium. By virtue of winning the Pacific Division for fifth consecutive year, the Ducks can be home again for a Game 7. If they win Sunday, they don’t need to deal with that demon.

And their inability to win a close-out Game 6 on the road has proven just as frightening. The Ducks just want the chance to write their postseason wrongs. They gave themselves that with a rally for the ages.

“I think with this team especially, we know that there’s going to be ups and downs in the playoffs,” Ducks center Ryan Kesler said, speaking before the game. “We’ve talked about it since the beginning. We’ve done a good job. When we go down, there’s no panic. We just go about our business and try to get the next one. And the next one after that.

“I think with the momentum swings that there are in playoffs, if we just stay at even keel and keep plugging along, we’ll be fine.”

The line of questioning about facing deficits within individual games but Kesler’s reference can now include the big picture. A dominating first period went unfulfilled and then the Ducks came unglued when the second began.

Connor McDavid has dazzled them and left his imprint but Leon Draisaitl continues to inflict the most pain. Drasaitl has feasted on the Ducks all season and his one-time shot off a pass from Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom squeeze through a sprawling Ducks goalie John Gibson just 15 seconds in.

In Game 1, Draisaitl factored greatly in the Oilers getting a jump on the series with a goal and three assists. The season total – eight goals and eight assists in nine games – will give Ducks coach Randy Carlyle a headache.

McDavid then took the lead. He used his stick to bunt in Mark Letestu’s pass back to him, making the Ducks pay for penalties by Nick Ritchie and Cam Fowler that gave Edmonton a 5-on-3 power play. The Ducks have allowed at least one in eight of their nine playoff games.

A potential turning point briefly gave the Ducks hope as Ritchie deflection in Brandon Montour’s point shot slid in through Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. But the apparent goal was immediately waved off and a review upheld the original call, with Ritchie being determined to have redirected the puck with a high stick.

The Ducks were already in scramble mode, having gotten out of their structure after going all-out in the first to break the Oilers but unable to crack Talbot. A two-goal lead became three as McDavid sprinted up the ice with his teammates on a 4-on-1 fast break.

Drake Caggiula made Edmonton coach Todd McLellan look prescient for moving him up to the right side of McDavid and having Leon Draisaitl at center to deal with a red-hot Getzlaf. Caggiula applied the finish to McDavid’s perfect pass for a 3-0 lead.

Not only did the Ducks lose the special teams battle but they’ll look back at the inability to solve Talbot in the first. They racked up 13 shots and controlled possession throughout but the Oilers’ goalie offered a big response to the 10 goals he allowed in Games 3 and 4.

Coming off a massive Game 4, Getzlaf was looking to have a similar start. But one great chance was foiled by Talbot. And when he was awarded a penalty shot at 9:12 of the first for getting held by Milan Lucic on a potential breakaway, Getzlaf missed high and wide on his golden opportunity.

 

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Whicker: Flames’ absence is a present for Ducks

  • Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67), right, scores past Calgary Flames goalie Brian Elliott during Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Thursday night at Honda Center. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67), right, scores past Calgary Flames goalie Brian Elliott during Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Thursday night at Honda Center. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67), left, celebrates his goal with center Ryan Getzlaf (15) during the game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Flames at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, April 13, 2017. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67), left, celebrates his goal with center Ryan Getzlaf (15) during the game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Flames at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, April 13, 2017. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ducks fans cheers for the team before the game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Flames at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, April 13, 2017. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Ducks fans cheers for the team before the game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Flames at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, April 13, 2017. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

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ANAHEIM >> He didn’t have time to wonder what was wrong with this picture. Kevin Bieksa got the puck and looked up and saw the landscape of Antarctica. Nothing but permafrost, as far as he could see.

Well, he did see Ryan Getzlaf, motoring toward the opposite blue line, but he didn’t see any opponents. No Calgary Flames. It was an odd time to hold a team meeting.

“We stopped playing,” Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We did that twice in this game.”

Bieksa fired the pass to Getzlaf at the Calgary blue line. Getzlaf was joined by Rickard Rakell as five Flames poured out of the bench to replace the truants. But they couldn’t get out there quickly enough to prevent a 3-on-zero.

Getzlaf’s rebound went off Brian Elliott and right to Rakell, who scored to tie the score in a game the visitors had been threatening to take over.

“That was a game-changer,” Gulutzan said, accurately, and the Ducks went on to win Game 1 of this first-round series, 3-2.

It wasn’t the whole game. Anaheim had back-to-back power plays later in the period and took a 3-2 lead on Jakob Silfverberg’s shot, after the Flames had been pinned in their own zone for 1:25.

And the Ducks had to survive a 3-on-5 and a 4-on-6 at the end, with goalie John Gibson stopping Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau on a bid for overtime

But the Ducks were able to score a goal against air. In playoff games that have molecular margins of error, this was a gift that the Flames couldn’t give.

“I saw they were on a change, I saw Getzie was out there with speed, and all I wanted to do was give him a perfect pass,” Bieksa said. “That’s what happened. He didn’t have to wait for it.”

How in the name of Penn and Teller does a team just disappear?

The Flames changed all five players, and the line of Kris Versteeg, Alex Chiasson and Sam Bennett didn’t get off the ice before Bieksa saw the wide-open spaces. That’s where plus-minus can be fraudulent. Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik got a minus, and all they did was scramble onto the ice, which they couldn’t do until the laggards arrived.

“That’s playoff hockey,” Bieksa said. “There’s a lot of confusion going on. I don’t know if their D were caught out on a shift or what (to create the five-man change), but that’s what wins or loses playoff games. We’ve been on the wrong end of bad changes at times. It’s the type of thing that decides a game.”

The Flames had shaken off a bad first minute and took a 2-1 lead early in the second when Versteeg’s slick backhand pass was converted by Bennett. “They were keeping us bottled up,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

But the Ducks only needed a little twist of the cap to escape that bottle and get straightened out. Refusing to punish such mistakes is another way to avoid winning a playoff game.

“That’s something we talked about in detail the last couple of days because details like that are important,” Gulutzan said. “But I guess we thought it was icing on that play, and we hesitated coming to the bench, and it cost us.

“We stopped playing early in the game, too, on the too-many-men penalty when the puck hit their skate and it wasn’t called. That set us back, too.”

That happened in a frenzied opening minute. The Ducks were charging and the Flames employed the old Scott Niedermayer trick of shooting the puck at the bench area in hopes of hitting someone leaving the ice, which would be a too many men penalty. The puck did hit Hampus Lindholm but the infraction wasn’t called. Next thing you know, Dougie Hamilton of the Flames is called for tripping, and Getzlaf is beating Elliott on a shot from the right point, with Patrick Eaves buzzing the net.

Sean Monahan tied it on a power play goal after T.J. Brodie kept intercepting what Carlyle called “soft clears” by the Ducks. Then the Flames played very comfortably until they realized none of them was on the ice.

The Flames took too many penalties, thanks to “youthful exuberance” according to Gulutzan, but then the Ducks spent the final minutes in a minority. But Getzlaf, brilliant all game, kept clearing the puck, and he also had to win faceoffs with Ryan Kesler in the box.

“You need to win draws in that situation,” Gulutzan said.

The Ducks’ rookie defensemen, Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore, held up their end. Theodore played over 12 minutes, blocked three shots and had two assists, both on the power play.

“They were very solid,” Bieksa said. “I thought generally we were comfortable with the first period. I thought we might be overzealous, maybe run around and take some penalties, but I thought we were pretty poised most of the game, very mature. We don’t need anybody to play like Superman.”

But if the Ducks can recover the superpower it takes to vaporize a whole hockey team, they’ll take that.

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