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Ducks exorcise their Game 7 demons and rally to defeat Oilers

Ducks exorcise their Game 7 demons and rally to defeat Oilers
Ducks center Andrew Cogliano reacts after tying the game in the second period on a feed from center Ryan Kesler and defenseman Brandon Montour during Game 7 at Honda Center on May 10. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The catharsis showed in the open-armed celebration by Andrew Cogliano, the short leap by Nick Ritchie into Sami Vatanen, and the giddy hops over the bench as the buzzer sounded.

As much as the Ducks downplayed their previous four Game 7 losses that hung around their necks like a wet rope, the release was clear on their faces Wednesday night.

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The hex was officially removed at 9:38 p.m. with a 2-1 win at Honda Center in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers.

Ritchie's third-period goal put the Ducks into the Western Conference finals against the Nashville Predators and ended a string of four Game 7 losses at home.

"We've been kicked to the curb a few times," Cogliano said. "We've taken a lot of heat in this room, probably rightfully so. But we were ready to make the next step here. We were ready to prove the doubters wrong and put that behind us."

The Ducks earned a Game 1 date Friday against Nashville with a dominating final two periods to end a wild series.

They held Edmonton's Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl scoreless and goalie John Gibson held off the final challenge before teammates rushed to him.

"It was relief," Gibson said. "It was a long time coming and I think we earned it tonight."

Ritchie, bumped up to the top line, took a pass from Vatanen in the right circle and shot the puck under the right arm of Oilers goalie Cam Talbot for a 2-1 Ducks lead — their first in any of their past five Game 7s.

"He got to come up and play with us [on the top line] for at least half the game tonight and made a big contribution," Ryan Getzlaf said.

Good work from Cogliano and Ryan Kesler produced the Ducks' first goal that whipped the crowd into a frenzy midway through the second period. Kesler deftly kept the puck alive in front of the net, and Cogliano tapped the puck in past a prone Talbot for his first goal of the playoffs.

But for the fifth straight Game 7, the Ducks fell behind early, and it came on essentially an own goal. Shea Theodore tried to move the puck up around the left side of the net and put it on his backhand as Edmonton's Drake Caggiula drew his stick close. The puck made it through Gibson for a 1-0 lead just 3:31 into the game.

"Stuff like that's going to happen, whether it's a bad bounce or a good break for them," Gibson said. "It happens. It's about responding, and I think we all responded the right way."

The lifted pressure was evident in the Ducks' dressing room, and the cherry on top was Getzlaf's 32nd birthday.

"I'll take it," Getzlaf said of getting the win.

He got serious, though, when asked exorcising their previous failures.

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"I don't want to say relief because we expect to do what we did," Getzlaf said. "But it's a fact that we don't have to talk about it anymore. That's a good thing. But other than that, we stuck to our plan. I was proud of our guys the way they battled though this whole series."

Three keys to Game 7

1. The Oilers got to more loose pucks. Both of Mark Letestu's goals came on rebounds on the right side of the power play.

2. The Ducks were in the penalty box too much. They gave Edmonton five power plays, and the Oilers scored twice. The Ducks got three power plays and scored once.

3. Edmonton took advantage of Ducks' missteps. Adam Larsson's first goal came when the Ducks were trying to change lines. The Oilers also got a two-man advantage in the second period on a high-sticking penalty by Hampus Lindholm.

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