Oilers take opener over Mighty Ducks

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Ales Hemsky scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, Dwayne Roloson had 31 saves and an assist, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3-1 Friday night in the opener of the Western Conference finals.

Edmonton, which had just one day off between the end of its series against San Jose and the beginning of the best-of-seven conference finals versus Anaheim, still matched the Ducks in energy, speed and checking. All that added up to the Oilers’ fifth straight victory after they fell behind the Sharks 0-2 in the previous round.

Anaheim hadn’t played since completing a sweep of Colorado on May 11 and vowed that rust wouldn’t be a factor once the puck dropped for the opener against Edmonton.

Game 2 is Sunday night in Anaheim before the series shifts to Edmonton – where the Ducks haven’t won since 1999. The Western Conference champion will play for the Stanley Cup against Buffalo or Carolina.

Michael Peca opened the scoring for Edmonton late in the first period, and the Ducks’ Andy McDonald quickly evened it before the frame ended.

Todd Harvey sealed the Oilers’ win by scoring an empty-net goal with 42 seconds remaining.

Ducks rookie goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 24 saves, but had little chance of stopping Edmonton’s two shots that got by him.

The 36-year-old Roloson, who has resurrected his career since Edmonton acquired him from Minnesota in March, was with the Wild when they lost to Anaheim in the 2003 playoffs.

In the opener this time, Roloson was especially effective at smothering the puck when the Ducks had traffic in front of the net.

Hemsky gave the Oilers a 2-1 lead at 11:36 of the second period with his fourth goal of the postseason.

Ryan Smyth’s slap shot bounced off Bryzgalov and into the air. Hemsky, slicing across the crease from the right side, batted the puck past the goalie’s right shoulder, too quickly for Bryzgalov to react.

The play was reviewed, but the replay showed that Hemsky’s stick was below the crossbar when he tapped the puck into the net.

Edmonton took a short-lived lead on Peca’s goal at 18:35 of the opening period. It took only 28 seconds for McDonald to tie it.

With top defenseman Chris Pronger off for elbowing, Roloson set up the Oilers’ short-handed goal with a backhanded clearing pass, lofting the puck high and far down the ice. Peca broke behind the Ducks, picked up the puck and went 1-on-1 with Bryzgalov, beating him with a backhander underneath the goalie’s right leg.

The goal was Peca’s third of the playoffs, and the rare goalie assist gave Roloson his first point of the postseason. Peca also scored in the Game 6 clinching victory over San Jose.

The Oilers had barely finished celebrating this one when McDonald got off a slap shot from beyond the left circle that sailed past Roloson and into the net. The power-play goal, with Pronger still in the box, was McDonald’s second of the playoffs.

The well-rested Ducks didn’t record their first shot until 8:02 expired, but they finished the opening period with nine shots to Edmonton’s 10.

The Oilers have won 17 of 21 meetings with Anaheim, including a sweep during this regular season when they were tied or trailed after two periods of each of the four games.

Notes: The Oilers are the only former Stanley Cup champions still alive in the playoffs. They have won the Cup five times, the last in 1990. … Hemsky’s goal ended a streak of 39 straight power plays the Ducks had killed dating to Game 5 of their first-round series against Calgary. … The Ducks have home-ice advantage because they were seeded sixth, two notches above the upstart Oilers – the bottom seed in the Western Conference playoffs. … The Ducks were the seventh seed in the West in 2003 when they reached the Stanley Cup finals and lost to New Jersey in seven games.

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