Ducks show their teeth

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Once upon a time the Ducks franchise was thought of as just another expansion team with a cute name, but they displayed a gritty side in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday.

For some reason people expect a team to be soft just because they are based on the West Coast, like playing in Southern California is going to transform Chris Pronger into Jeff Spicoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".

The fact of the matter is the Ducks are an extremely physical team and they are very capable of grinding out a victory with relentless forechecking.

The Ducks were able to do just that against the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday night. Anaheim headed into the third period down 2-1, but was clearly the better team in the third period.

Anaheim scored twice in the final six minutes of play to post the 3-2 home victory. Ryan Getzlaf tied the game with 5:44 left and Travis Moen notched the game-winner with 2:51 remaining.

Ryan Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf seems to be getting better as these playoffs continue.
The Senators had been excellent at taking leads and holding onto them in this postseason, but were unable to fight off the furious third-period attack of the Ducks.

Getzlaf was an absolute force in the game for Anaheim, as the youngster seems to be getting better as these playoffs continue. The 22-year-old centerman was named the first star in Game 1 after taking charge of the contest in the third period. He had three shots in the game, all of which came in the third period, and his backhander tied the game with just under six minutes left in regulation.

Many other Ducks players followed Getzlaf's lead in the third period and Anaheim wound up outshooting the Senators, 14-7, in the final 20 minutes. A bit of luck was even involved on Moen's game-winner, as he fired a bouncing puck into the net.

The third-period onslaught was actually building since the beginning of the game because the Ducks decided to hit hard from the outset.

"We used our forecheck, we were physical," said Ducks forward Andy McDonald. "I thought as the game went along, we wore their defense down a bit, and I thought that was a factor."

Another big story in Game 1 was how effective Anaheim was against the Senators top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. The trio combined for just two assists while playing mainly against Anaheim's checking line of center Samuel Pahlsson and wingers Moen and Rob Niedermayer.

The Senators top-line has become one of the most-feared in the league and had been nearly unstoppable so far in this postseason. But, they were clearly frustrated in Game 1, although Spezza downplayed Anaheim's role in stopping his line.

"It's not so much what they did, it's what we didn't do as a line," Spezza said. "We didn't have as much jump."

Ottawa, which can throw its weight around as well, has yet to play a team as physical as the Ducks in these playoffs and needs its tough players like Chris Neil and Andrej Meszaros to step up.

However, one negative result of playing such a physical brand of hockey is that the Ducks wound up taking too many penalties. Ottawa had seven power-play opportunities and scored on two of those chances.

"Five-on-five we played well, the way we wanted to -- physical" Moen said. "They got two power-play goals on us and we have to shore that up."

So far in the playoffs, the overwhelming majority of the credit for Anaheim's success has gone either to the stellar duo of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer on defense or the play of goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Not to argue with the fact that the Ducks are led by those three players, but if you get caught only watching what they're doing, chances are you're going to get smacked by somebody else.

The Senators were caught off guard by the rough stuff in Game 1, now will they be able to assert themselves in the second game on Wednesday? If they don't, Anaheim will bully its way to the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

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Dan Di Sciullo
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