Two games into the Stanley Cup finals and the scorecard for the Ducks’ checking line reads as follows:
Shut down the Ottawa Senators’ vaunted scoring line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. Check. Account for the game-winning goal in each game. Check. Put the Ducks two wins away from their first championship. Check.
Samuel Pahlsson came up with the late heroics this time at the Honda Center on Wednesday night as he ended a scoreless duel with 5 minutes 44 seconds remaining in the Ducks’ 1-0 victory in Game 2, which gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
Game 3 is Saturday at Ottawa.
History is firmly on the side of the Ducks. Only three teams have rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game Stanley Cup series -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1966 and 1971 Montreal Canadiens.
It gets better. Thirty teams have won the first two games at home since the seven-game format was instituted in 1939, and 29 have gone on to win the Cup.
“You want to take care of home ice,” Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said. “After a big win in the first game, it’s important to come out and play another good game. I thought we played our game for most of the night.”
The decisive play began when Pahlsson picked up a turnover by Heatley in the neutral zone and carried the puck down the right wing, with defenseman Joe Corvo ahead of him in the offensive zone.
Pahlsson managed to get Corvo’s back turned toward him and in that moment, he snapped a wrist shot between the defenseman’s skates past a surprised Ray Emery to set off a charged crowd of 17,258 that had kept the Ducks going throughout the game.
“It was a great shot,” Ottawa Coach Bryan Murray said. “He got Corvo turned around. He tried to do something with the stick, got spun and he used Corvo as a screen and hit inside the post.”
The winning goal was only another big moment for an unassuming line that has come up big in the postseason. After accounting for 24 goals as a unit in the regular season, Pahlsson, Moen and Rob Niedermayer have combined for 12 in 18 playoff games.
“There’s been lots of guys that have jumped in and scored the big goal,” said Moen, whose Game 1 winner also came late in the third period. “You never know. It’s the playoffs. Anyone can step up and score the big goal.”
Not only have they provided a surprising amount of offense, but they have clamped down on the Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson trio, which has combined for no goals and two assists in the two games.
And there was Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere standing tall again. Benefiting from a strong defensive performance by his team, Giguere made 16 saves for his fifth career postseason shutout and first since Game 4 of the 2003 finals against the New Jersey Devils.
“We didn’t give them much to work with,” Giguere said. “The only thing they really got was their power play and even then I thought we did a better job than the first game.”
The game stayed scoreless largely because of Giguere’s heroics during a five-on-three power play that the Senators gained when Shawn Thornton and Chris Pronger took penalties 53 seconds apart in the first period.
Giguere stopped five shots during the man advantages as Ottawa had several chances to put one in. His biggest save of the night came during the flurry when he slid across the crease to deny Heatley on a point-blank chance.
Now the Ducks are in a position that they didn’t have in 2003 against New Jersey, when they battled uphill throughout before losing Game 7.
“We’ve kind of done our job,” Pronger said. “We’ve won our two home games and let’s face it, you’re supposed to win your home games. Now it’s in their court.”
Murray is counting on his team finding its game in what probably will be a raucous crowd Saturday at Scotiabank Place. Or else, it may be checkmate.
“We’ve played well in our building,” he said. “We have to do it, absolutely have to do it this time and give ourselves a chance to come back here and get one.”