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One win from a Ducks’ title

Anaheim has never lost a Stanley Cup Finals game at home.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:54 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Now that the Anaheim Ducks have that elusive road win, they are ready to do what they do best: close things out at home.

Twice the Ducks have reached the Stanley Cup finals and both times they were perfect on home ice and inept in enemy territory. That all changed in Canada’s capital city on Monday and set up an NHL-style beach party.

Anaheim leads the Ottawa Senators 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and can capture the Stanley Cup for the first time Wednesday night. The Ducks are 5-0 in the finals at the place formerly known as the Pond and 7-0 there when they have a chance to finish off a series.

“We learned a lot of lessons the last two years,” said captain Scott Niedermayer, a three-time Cup champion with New Jersey _ including in 2003 over Anaheim. “All those past situations, we’ll be able to go back and those will help.”

Anaheim snapped a five-game road losing streak in the finals by beating the Senators 3-2, and did it without key defenseman Chris Pronger, who served a one-game suspension for elbowing Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond in the head during the third period of Game 3.

The Norris Trophy finalist will be back in the lineup Wednesday in what surely will be a rauco us arena ready to celebrate.

Both sides are well aware the Cup will be in the building.

“We can’t change the way we want to play just because of the implications of the game,” Pronger said. “We’ve got to come out and compete and make sure that this is our best game of the series and hope that’s good enough. It is another game. You can’t worry about everything and the distractions.”

Even if the Ducks lose Wednesday, hockey history suggests they’re still in good shape to capture the Cup. Only once in 28 chances has a team erased a 3-1 deficit in the finals and skated off with the coveted silver chalice.

The numbers were already working in their favor when they left Anaheim with a 2-0 lead. There is only one team out of 30 that won the first two games at home and blew the series.

Ottawa had plenty to think about Tuesday morning during the team’s five-hour flight back to southern California.

“We were upbeat and we have nothing to lose now,” Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson said. “We’re going to go out there and try to bring it home to Ottawa again for Game 6. There’s no question that we believe we can do that.”

If they do, they will head home to the birthplace of Lord Stanley’s Cup back in 1893. The Senators are 13-6 in the playoffs, winning each of their first three series in five games, while the Ducks are 9-2 at home.

Anaheim beat Minnesota and Vancouver in five, and took out Detroit in six _ finishing each series in front of the home folks.

“We’re in this together,” top-line Senators forward Jason Spezza said. “We’ve gotten here together. We’ve gotten ourselves down 3-1 together, and we can get ourselves out of it. But it has to be together.”

If Ottawa manages to win two straight, it would mark the Ducks’ first losing streak of the playoffs and force a Game 7 on Monday, again in Anaheim. Edmonton, with Pronger leading the way, erased a 3-1 deficit last year against Carolina in the championship round, only to lose the deciding final game on the road.

He remembers what that was like, and Niedermayer — the only Ducks player to have won the Cup — also pitched in with tips on how to keep feelings in check.

“You have to guard against letting your emotions get to you, letting there be distractions,” Pronger said. “Scotty has got some great advice for you: worry about the game and don’t worry about anything else.”

Niedermayer provided a good example of that by not going after Alfredsson when the Senators captain shot a puck at him from center ice just as the second period expired.

He told the Ducks to forget about it. The score was tied and there were more important issues to deal with than retaliation. Anaheim pulled out the victory on Dustin Penner’s goal in the third.

“We’re trying to keep our focus, whether it’s an incident like that, or a penalty call, or we hit the post or they score,” he said. “Whatever it is. You just have to treat it as any one of those things that are going to happen and not get off our game because of it.”

Niedermayer admitted that the nerves and excitement still exist even when you have won several times. The thoughts creep into your mind in the hours before the game, which of course can disrupt the standard afternoon nap.

“It’s still tough. It’s still exciting. That’s why we play,” Niedermayer said. “I wouldn’t say it gets easier; maybe a little bit. It’s still a challenge and still obviously a lot of fun.”

“You have to be ready, you have to play your best. That’s really what we have to be prepared to do. It’s nice that we’ve done it up to this point, but that doesn’t really do us a lot of good (Wednesday) night.”

At least now that they are back on the West Coast, the start time reverts to 5 p.m. PDT to accommodate TV viewers back East — however few might be watching.

Ottawa’s home victory in Game 3 on Saturday night received a 1.1 national rating and a 2 share, NBC said Tuesday. The rating was down 31 percent from last year’s Game 3 between Edmonton and Carolina.


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