Andy McDonald scored twice in the second period and helped set up the winner by Dustin Penner in the third as the Ducks drove the Senators to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 victory Monday night in the Stanley Cup final. Anaheim leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can wrap it up at home with a win in Game 5 Wednesday night.
“We’re only going to enjoy this for maybe 10 minutes and then we’ll have to get ready for the next one,” said McDonald, who has four goals in as many games against the Senators.
“Hopefully we can use our fans in our own building to get a little bit extra motivated for that next game.”
The loss puts Ottawa in a deep hole. Teams leading 3-1 have won 28-of-29 finals since the best-of-seven format was adopted in 1939, with the exception the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s pretty tough right now,” said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson. “But we’ve just got to regroup and try to win one down in California.”
The Senators bombarded solid Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with 13 shots in the opening period but managed only Alfredsson’s 12th goal of the playoffs with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.
Then Ottawa stunned its boisterous, red-clad crowd of 20,500 with a feeble period and a half in which the Ducks took over the game and perhaps the series.
Even the Senators’ late bid for the equalizer looked tepid as the Ducks repeatedly won loose pucks and cleared their zone. The only exception in the final 40 minutes was playoff scoring leader Dany Heatley’s first goal of the series late in the second period that tied the game 2-2.
“We played well but didn’t get rewarded until the last second of the first,” coach Bryan Murray said. “We certainly had enough scoring chances but we didn’t take advantage of it.
“But there was no reason for the way we played in the second.”
The Ducks victory came despite the absence of Pronger, the star defenceman who served a one-game suspension for an elbow to the head of centre Dean McAmmond in Ottawa’s Game 3 victory, and Kunitz, the injured first-line winger.
Francois Beauchemin helped eat up some of Pronger’s playing time with 31:40 on the ice, while captain Scott Niedermayer played 29:23 and lesser-known defencemen like Sean O’Donnell and Kent Huskins stepped in to the fill the void.
The Ducks also won when Pronger was suspended for a game in the Western Conference final against Detroit.
“We don’t want to get used to playing without Chris Pronger,” said Niedermayer. “But we realized that when he isn’t there, we all have to be at our absolute best. We got that in the second and third periods.”
Niedermayer was also involved in a shoving melee at the end of the second period when Alfredsson appeared to blast a shot right at him.
But Alfredsson turned down an invitation from Niedermayer for what would have been a battle of team captains, while Giguere wisely declined a challenge from feisty Ottawa goalie Ray Emery.
Murray didn’t think Alfredsson shot at Niedermayer, and Alfredsson denied it, but Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said it was deliberate and so did Niedermayer.
“I wasn’t happy,” the veteran defenceman said. “There’s no need to get hit with a puck at that point. But I’m not going to say more than that.”
Ottawa pulled Emery for an extra attacker with 1:32 left to play but failed to generate a single quality scoring chance as Anaheim bottled them up.
“When you get a lead late in the game you can make the other team look fairly inept at times,” said Murray. “We had a couple of plays down low but got taken off the puck.”
The Ducks, who went into the night 0-5 in games on the road in their two final series appearances, tied an NHL record they already partially owned for most one-goal wins in a single playoff year at 12. The Ducks also did it in 2003 to join Montreal, which accomplished it in 1993.
Just after pop star Alanis Morissette sang the anthems, the Senators jumped on a diminished Ducks lineup and forced two undisciplined penalties early, both provoked by rugged Ottawa forward Chris Neil.
The Senators had nine shots before Corey Perry got one for Anaheim in the 12th minute.
A goaltender interference call to Ryan Getzlaf led to Alfredsson’s opening goal, when he took a feed from Peter Schaefer and put a shot under Giguere’s arm.
But after outshooting Anaheim 13-2 in the first period, the Ducks had a 13-4 advantage in the second as they outskated Ottawa and took the lead.
A power play had just ended when McDonald took Todd Marchant’s feed, waited for Emery to go down and shot one in off his stick at 10:06.
Exactly one minute later, McDonald was open on the left side on a rush, put a sweet move on Anton Volchenkov and scored on the backhand under Emery’s pad.
“Those are not good goals to give up,” said Murray.
But the Senators struck again late, as Patrick Eaves – taking McAmmond’s place in the lineup – slid a pass across the crease for Heatley to slam in before leaping in glee over the struggling sniper’s first goal and point of the series.
Only 4:07 into the third, Wade Redden had come on to relieve Chris Philips and was immediately turned around in the neutral zone, allowing Selanne to move in and feed Penner for a shot into an open side.
“We’ve got to lay it all out there,” said Sens defenceman Chris Phillips.
Notes: Joe DiPenta replaced Pronger, while Kunitz also sat out after leaving Game 3 with an abdominal bruise. He was replaced by Joe Motzko . . . Alfredsson has played in all 98 playoff games in the Senators’ history. Ottawa is (49-48) all-time in the post-season.