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Anaheim Ducks sneak past Edmonton Oilers in Game 7, will face Nashville Predators

By Dennis Bernstein, The Sports Xchange

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After four consecutive postseasons of failure and frustration, the Anaheim Ducks exorcized their Game 7 demons with a gritty triumph.

Despite surrendering an early fluke goal that could have sent them to the same final-game fate, they rallied to move to within eight wins of their second Stanley Cup championship.

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Nick Ritchie scored the decisive third-period goal, and John Gibson made 23 saves as Anaheim defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Wednesday in Game 7 of a Western Conference semifinal series.

The Ducks advance to the conference finals to meet the Nashville Predators. The series is scheduled to start Friday night in Anaheim.

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The Ducks won a Game 7 for the first time in five playoff seasons. They had been eliminated from the postseason in a Game 7 at home each of the previous four seasons.

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Drake Caggiula scored the Edmonton goal in the first period, and Andrew Cogliano responded for the Ducks in the second period. Oilers goalie Cam Talbot made 28 saves.

Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf expressed a sense of triumph and relief after the win.

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"We learned from the past and how to deal with adversity," Getzlaf said. "We had to go out and play our game individually. We are happy to win this one, but the job is far from done."

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said that all the talk surrounding the up-and-coming Oilers team caused the public to overlook his squad.

"The media fails to realize that we have a lot of good talent in our room as well," Carlyle said. "Since December, we've played to a record few teams have in this league. The one thing I learned about this group is that despite playing so well, they have never been satisfied."

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Edmonton coach Todd McLellan was upbeat in discussing the painful loss, knowing that his youthful team looks to be continuing the upward arc toward championship contention.

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"It is too early to analyze this series, but in the coming days, we will look at all the great things we have done this postseason," McLellan said. "We played two very good teams, and Anaheim has a chance to go all the way. I wish we would have scored one more goal tonight. We weren't afraid of the playoff stage. That's a good sign for us."

Connor McDavid echoed his coach's sentiments after the emotional game, and with a core that includes center Leon Draisaitl and Talbot in net, he knows the future is bright in Edmonton.

"If someone would have told you in September we would get to the second round and push Anaheim to seven games, no one would have believed it," McDavid said. "We'll be back."

Anaheim took the lead on Ritchie's second goal of the playoffs at 3:21 of the third period. Sami Vatanen gained possession in the right corner of the Ducks' offensive zone and found an unguarded Ritchie in the right faceoff circle. Ritchie drilled a wrist shot past Talbot's stick side with Corey Perry earning the secondary assist.

Cogliano scored his first goal of the postseason at 8:55 of the middle period. He backhanded a rebound of an initial Ryan Kesler shot during a goalmouth scramble with Brandon Montour earning the secondary assist.

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Edmonton jumped on top thanks to Caggiula's unassisted goal, his third of the postseason at 3:31 of the first period. Caggiula got credit for the goal when he forechecked Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore directly in front of the Anaheim net and the puck trickled through Gibson.

NOTES: Edmonton scratched D Andrej Sekera, D Mark Fayne, D Griffin Reinhart, LW Matt Hendricks, RW Iiro Pakarinen, C Anton Lander, LW Jujhar Khaira, D Jordan Oesterle and D Joey LaLeggia. ... The Oilers fell to 6-4 in Game 7s, including 3-3 on the road. ... Anaheim did not dress RW Patrick Eaves, D Kevin Bieksa and C Logan Shaw. Eaves, who had been playing on the Ducks' top line with C Ryan Getzlaf and LW Rickard Rakell, has been sidelined with a foot injury since Game 3 of the series. ... The Ducks reassigned LW Nicolas Kerdiles and C Sam Carrick to their AHL San Diego affiliate. ... The attendance was 17,407, a Honda Center sellout.

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