The anaheim Ducks on Wednesday became the first NHL team to advance to the second round of the playoffs, finishing off a hard-earned sweep of the Winnipeg Jets with a 5-2 victory at a raucous and rocking MTS Centre.
The Ducks will face the winner of the series between Calgary and Vancouver, which the Flames lead, three games to one.
Ryan Kesler, reviled here as he is in most NHL rinks, scored twice in the third period as the Ducks recorded their first playoff sweep since they won four straight against Colorado in the second round in 2006.
Kesler gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead by tapping in a rebound at 6:41. The Jets cut that to 3-2 when a long shot by Mark Stuart caromed off Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and past goaltender Frederik Andersen, but Kesler struck a dagger into the hearts of the gritty Jets with another score for a 4-2 lead. Sami Vatanen added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Winnipeg's beloved team has a fine future, but the Ducks' future is now, and Kesler has made it look extremely bright.
Ducks center Ryan Kesler scored his second goal of the third period at 16:24 to give Anaheim a 4-2 lead over the Jets in Game 4.
Jakob Silfverberg and Patrick Maroon were credited with the assists.
The Ducks are just minutes from advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a four-game sweep.
Ryan Kesler, much-hated here and in most NHL rinks, didn't do anything for his popularity by padding the Ducks' lead to 3-1 at 6:41 of the third period.
Off the rush, Tomas Fleischmann passed to defenseman Simon Despres, whose shot was stopped. But the rebound sat in front of goalie Ondrej Pavelec, and Kesler tapped it in.
Winnipeg cut its deficit to 3-2 with a goal by Mark Stuart, whose long shot glanced off someone in front of the net and got past Frederik Andersen and 10:27.
That triggered more towel waving and chants from the ever-hopeful fans, who stood on their feet to yell and express their passion for a team that has come a long way this season and has a bright future.
Ducks 2, Jets 1 (end of second period)
The Ducks were assessed a penalty at 16:26 for having too many men on the ice but they killed that.
They also brushed off a hard hit by Dustin Byfuglien that sent Tomas Fleischmann into the Winnipeg bench late in the period.
Through two periods, the Ducks hold a 2-1 lead, the first time in this series they've led entering the third period.
Two excellent individual efforts led to the Ducks' second goal, at 12:55 of the second period.
Hampus Lindholm carried the puck up ice and passed to Corey Perry, who made a nifty move to fool the Jets' defense and threaded a pass to Andrew Cogliano down low. Cogliano, who had three assists in Game 3, had the open right side of the net to shoot at and didn't miss.
The Ducks got their first power play a little later, at 13:08, when Mark Stuart was sent off for holding Jakob Silfverberg. They buzzed around the Winnipeg net and had three shots on goal but couldn't pad their lead.
Ducks left wing Andrew Cogliano beat Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with a slapshot 12:55 into the second period to give Anaheim its first lead of the game, 2-1.
Right wing Corey Perry and defenseman Hampus Lindholm were credited with the assists.
Shortly after the score, Jets defenseman Mark Stuart was sent off for holding Ducks right wing Jakob Silfverberg, but Winnipeg survived an onslaught of shots to keep its deficit to one.
Most of the first few minutes of the second period were played in the Ducks' end, and they didn't get their first shot on goal until the period was nearly halfway done.
Winnipeg got its second power play of the game, at 9:56, when Jakob Silfverberg was penalized for holding. But the Ducks' penalty killers did a fine job and didn't allow Winnipeg to take a shot during those two minutes.
Ducks 1, Jets 1 (end of first period)
The early stages of the game were as hard-hitting as the first three games, which means it was bruising. The Jets broke through first, igniting the crowd, but the Ducks responded quickly to leave the score tied, 1-1, after one period.
Andrew Cogliano's offensive-zone penalty at 16:07 gave the Jets the first power play of the game, and they capitalized on it when Bryan Little's rising shot sailed over the shoulder of Frederik Andersen at 16:26.
But the Ducks didn't trail for long. Emerson Etem made a dazzling move around Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba and rifled a shot past Ondrej Pavelec to bring the Ducks even at 17:52. The assists went to Sami Vatanen and Corey Perry.
The Jets were credited with 19 hits in the period compared to 16 by the Ducks. The Jets also had an edge in faceoffs, 10-7.
Greetings from MTS Centre, site of Game 4 of the Ducks' first-round playoff series against the Winnipeg Jets. The Ducks won the first three games of this best-of-seven series and can complete a sweep Wednesday night; if the Jets win, Game 5 will be played Friday at Honda Center with a scheduled 7 p.m. PDT start.
The Ducks' 5-4 overtime victory Monday in Game 3 seemed to take heavy emotional toll on the Jets and their long-suffering fans. It was the first NHL playoff game in Winnipeg since 1996, just before the original Jets franchise left town and moved to Arizona, and fans vented all of their pent-up excitement in a memorable roaring display of affection while wearing white clothing to create a whiteout effect. Seeing the Jets lose after leading in the third period deflated the crowd and the Jets' players, though players said Wednesday they're not done.
The motto on the white board in their locker room was "Why Not Us?" In addition, Coach Paul Maurice and several players referred to the Kings' comeback from an 0-3 deficit last spring against San Jose -- and eventual run to the Stanley Cup championship -- as proof that it can be done. Only four teams in NHL history have rallied to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.
"You take a look at what happened last year with the team that won the Stanley Cup in their first round. Why not us? Why can't we do it?" defenseman Tyler Myers said.
"We're just focused on tonight. We've cleaned up a little bit this morning. We're going to come out and compete as hard as we can. We're certainly not going down without a fight."
Winning one game, he said, could lift their spirits and help them maintain their intensity and physicality.
"It gives a little bit of momentum. We get that first one, we focus on the next game," he said. "But for right now, it's focus on that first one. We're going to work as hard as we can to get it."
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf -- whose parents were conspicuous in the crowd Monday with his mother wearing an orange shirt and his father wearing a black Ducks jersey -- said the Ducks are prepared for an all-out push by the Jets.
"They're out there fighting for their lives. They know if they lose they're going home," he said. "So, you always see the best of your opponent and we have to make sure we're ready for that."
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he planned to use the same lineup, which means center Nate Thompson won't return even though he has recovered from an upper-body injury and has been practicing. In addition, Jason LaBarbera will continue as the backup to starting goaltender Frederik Andersen while John Gibson continues to heal from an upper-body injury.
There were a few spots of orange in the mass of white-clad Jets' fans tonight.
One was a proud and brave fan -- Susan Getzlaf, the mother of Ducks' captain Ryan Getzlaf.
"It's great. We won. They were happy," Ryan Getzlaf said after Wednesday's morning skate. "Both my parents said everyone was very respectful to them and they were very proud...They knew what kind of environment they were coming into. But it was nice to hear people treated them with respect."
Ryan and his older brother Chris grew up in Regina, Canada, and Chris is a wide receiver for the Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
"My mom was the only one in that bright orange shirt," Ryan said, looking amused. "She stood out like a sore thumb. ... Dad wore a black jersey. He was still wearing my jersey but it was black, not bright orange."