ANAHEIM — The beards will keep growing and the Ducks will keep playing. They eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series with a 2-1 victory Wednesday, ending their Game 7 curse with a smart, patient game that showed off all their experience, depth and skill.
No rest for the weary, though.
Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-7 Western Conference finals are Friday and Sunday at Honda Center.
So, say goodbye to the Oilers and hello to the Nashville Predators.
Nashville is 8-2 in the playoffs after eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.
The Ducks are 8-3 after defeating the Calgary Flames and the Oilers.
“They defend really well,” Ducks left wing Andrew Cogliano said of the Predators. “I think they’re more defense-first. They’re physical. They’re very physical. They’ve got (goaltender Pekka) Rinne. I think their ‘D’ are the best in the league, personally.
“Nashville is as good as you’re going to find in the league.”
The Ducks were 2-1 against the Predators during the regular season, but two of the games were in the opening weeks, so it’s difficult to gauge them. The Ducks beat the Predators, 6-1, on Oct. 26 and 4-3 in a shootout on March 7 at Honda Center. They also lost, 5-0, on Nov. 12 at Nashville.
The Predators have beaten the Ducks twice in the playoffs, including in the first round last season. Nashville’s victory in Game 7 over the Ducks extended their humiliating streak of winner-take-all-defeats at Honda Center to four in as many seasons.
The Ducks reversed the curse Wednesday.
Can their momentum carry over to the next round?
“Last time we played them we gave them the first two here, and we don’t want to do that again,” Cogliano said of the Ducks’ playoff loss last season to the Predators. “We’ve earned home ice. It’s something we’re proud of. Tonight, the building was awesome.
“Places like Calgary and Edmonton, all the other markets get a lot of credit for their fans, but tonight ours was as loud and maybe even better. It was as loud as you can get. We feed off that. We need the energy from the fans. I try to think of it as, we’re in it as a team, the organization and the fans.
“We’re going to need everyone.”
The Ducks’ victory over the Oilers in Game 7 featured contributions from near and far. Cogliano scored the tying goal in the second period and left wing Nick Ritchie supplied the go-ahead goal 3 minutes, 21 seconds into the third.
The Ducks’ second-round win is history, though.
“I think we have to start over,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said. “We’ve done some good things, but now we’re playing a different team. We have to play even better. Next game is going to be the toughest of the season. We have to have that approach to the game.
“We have to play like we did tonight, and even better.”
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