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What pressure? Anaheim Ducks enjoying the playoff ride heading to Game 5 vs tenacious Detroit

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Ryan Getzlaf knows the Anaheim Ducks could be getting frustrated.

Instead, he thinks they're just getting started.

The Ducks have controlled long stretches of their matchup with Detroit, outshooting and outscoring the Red Wings over the first four games while getting superior goaltending from Jonas Hiller. Yet the series is even heading into Game 5 on Wednesday night at Honda Center.

Second-seeded Anaheim's stellar regular-season record and formidable talent haven't mattered to the Red Wings, who sneaked out two overtime victories despite playing with a lead in just one of the series' four games.

It's a recipe for tension in the Ducks' dressing room heading into a pivotal point of the first-round series. But to Getzlaf and his teammates, every element of the playoff march is a privilege, particularly after the Ducks missed the post-season in two of the past three years.

"We're far from frustrated," the Anaheim captain said Tuesday after the Ducks' long flight from Detroit to Orange County. "This is playoff hockey. This is the best time of the year, and we're in a best-of-three series now. We always knew it was going to be a long series. ... It's been a grind throughout the year. We've always been able to rise up to the occasion, and we're hoping for that tomorrow (in Game 5)."

The Ducks expect to have little trouble regrouping after they barely missed a chance to take a 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Monday night. After Anaheim blew a third-period lead, Damien Brunner's overtime goal evened the series for the Red Wings, who appeared to be on the ropes after getting shut out by Hiller in the first 100 minutes of the teams' two games at Joe Louis Arena.

"One goal the other way (in Game 4), and everybody is happy around here," Getzlaf said.

Instead, the Ducks must find additional determination to get past their playoff-tested opponents. Anaheim will have the advantage of its favoured matchups on home ice in Game 5 and a potential Game 7, yet neither team believes matchups or friendly crowds have made much impact on this series.

"Quite frankly, the matchups only work if your team is playing well and you get a lead," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If you don't get a lead, you may have some great defensive matchups, but you're going to have to change because you need to score goals. We'll get the last change (in Game 5), which will help, because I thought the last game they were definitely trying to get (Pavel) Datsyuk's line against one specific line, and we tried to change it a few times. It's a difficult thing to do."

Datsyuk scored the tying goal with 6:33 left in regulation in Game 4 for the Red Wings, who finally flexed their offensive skills at home after five-plus periods without a score.

The Red Wings made an obvious effort to get more shots at Hiller in Game 4, sending pucks at the Anaheim net at every opportunity. Hiller was solid all night, but the Red Wings' mentality eventually led to Brunner's winning goal.

"The plan was to get more shots, and shoot from worse angles," Detroit's Valtteri Filppula said. "We did a good job. We were able to get pucks back in the offensive zone. I didn't think we did that enough in the previous game."

The Ducks are hoping to increase their own offensive pressure on Jimmy Howard on Wednesday. Howard acknowledged he hadn't been Hiller's equal in the series, giving up 12 goals on 120 shots, but he played tremendously well in Game 4 when the Ducks pressed for a possible clinching goal.

"I just wanted to give the guys a chance to win," Howard said. "They deserved that. I knew I had to be better. I wanted to be better. ... In the playoffs, all it takes is a goalie to get hot, and anything can happen."

Although Anaheim has generated plenty of offensive chances, the Ducks could use a goal from high-scoring Corey Perry, who won the Richard Trophy with 50 goals in 2011 during his MVP season. He hasn't found the net in the playoffs, and he missed on a couple of golden chances in Game 4.

"If those went in, we wouldn't be having this conversation," Perry said Tuesday. "They had a lot of shots (in Game 4), but we had some good chances, too. We've got to create more chances, keep plugging away, and hopefully get some ugly ones."

Boudreau criticized a few unnamed Ducks after Game 4 for being "passengers"—passive participants who didn't do enough work to help Anaheim. Major lineup changes seem unlikely after the Ducks' fairly solid play throughout the series, but Boudreau is eager to get his team rolling quickly, before any struggles lead to a potential elimination game.

Detroit again will be without Justin Abdelkader, who must finish his two-game suspension for a big hit on Anaheim's Toni Lydman. The veteran defenceman sat out Game 4 with apparent after-effects from the collision, and Lydman didn't skate in the Ducks' optional practice after travelling Tuesday.

While the Ducks prepared for the pressure of Game 5, the Red Wings worked on minor adjustments for their latest trip to Honda Center, where they've won three of their four games this season.

"We have to go in their barn and steal another game," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.



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