OTTAWA — Andy McDonald bailed out Chris Pronger and set up Southern California for a playoff party like never before.
The Anaheim Ducks are within a win of their first Stanley Cup championship.
McDonald scored two goals in the second period, then shook free of hard-hitting Chris Neil and assisted on Dustin Penner’s winner in the third, giving Anaheim a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
The Ducks will carry a 3-1 series advantage back home to Anaheim, where they are 7-0 in clinching games, including 3-0 this year. But this one is different, and it all became possible because of the Ducks’ first road win in the finals in six chances over two series.
Anaheim is 5-0 in the finals on home ice and can secure Southern California’s first Stanley Cup title as early as Wednesday night.
Anaheim got it done despite a miserable first period in which it was outshot 13-2 without Pronger, a Norris Trophy finalist who served a one-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond in Game 3 on Saturday.
Ducks general manager Brian Burke was incensed Sunday that Pronger was suspended while Neil wasn’t, claiming the only difference was McAmmond was injured and McDonald wasn’t when Neil charged and landed a high, hard hit in Game 3.
This time, Neil missed the Ducks forward and instead crashed himself into the boards. That was enough to allow McDonald to get the puck up ice to Teemu Selanne.
Skating alongside Penner, with only Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov back, Selanne moved the puck across to Penner for a shot that beat Ray Emery 4:07 into the third to snap a 2-2 tie.
Dany Heatley had his best game of the finals, scoring his first goal of the series to get Ottawa even 2-2 with 2 minutes left in the second period. Heatley struggled along with linemates Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, who had been shut down through three games.
Alfredsson netted his second of the series with less than a second left in the first period to stake Ottawa to a 1-0 lead.
Spezza, who went pointless in consecutive games for the first time since October, earned an assist on Heatley’s seventh of the playoffs. That restored excitement to a nervous arena that might’ve seen the Senators’ last home game of the best season in team history. Ottawa managed only four shots in the second period to Anaheim’s 13, and three were taken by Heatley.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the playoffs MVP in 2003 when the Ducks lost Game 7 of the finals at New Jersey, stopped 21 shots in all. That was enough to give Anaheim its 12th one-goal win of the postseason, tying the NHL mark.
Alfredsson, Ottawa’s captain, was the last-second hero in the first period, but turned into the villain in the final moments of the second. He inexplicably fired a shot from center ice right at defenseman Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks’ captain.
The usually mild-mannered Niedermayer, a three-time Cup champion in his days with New Jersey, angrily engaged Alfredsson. It caused a tension-filled scrum that only led to matching minor penalties to start the third. Giguere and Emery, known to drop his gloves, spoke as they crossed paths on their way off the ice.
Just as it seemed the Ducks would survive the penalty-filled and offensively challenged frame unscathed, Alfredsson one-timed a pass from Peter Schaefer past Giguere with only 0.3 seconds left.
Alfredsson, playing in his 98th consecutive playoff contest with the Senators, scored for the second straight game after being blanked twice in Anaheim.
Emery, who made 18 saves, didn’t have much to do in the opening period, facing his first shot nearly 12 minutes in and seeing only one more the rest of the way.
It all changed in the second period.
Anaheim enjoyed the only two power plays of the frame, but couldn’t take advantage. Instead, the Ducks scored twice at even strength and held a 13-4 edge in shots.
McDonald tied it midway through the period, then notched his ninth of the playoffs exactly a minute later for a 2-1 lead.
The first came when he took a pass in front from Todd Marchant, who had curled behind the net, and sent a shot that got past defenseman Andrej Meszaros, Emery, and Spezza, who came behind Emery to guard the goal line as the netminder moved up in the crease.
McDonald gave the Ducks their first lead with a scintillating effort. He cut right between the circles, faking Volchenkov down to the ice, glidling across in front of Emery and backhanding a shot between his pads.
He nearly had a third goal earlier in the period, but his shot rang right off the post behind Emery.