Anaheim Ducks center Samuel Pahlsson, right, is congratulated by teammate Rob Niedermayer on his third-period unassisted goal against the Ottawa Senators. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
Sammy Pahlsson's goal at 14:16 of the third period gave the Ducks a 1-0 victory Wednesday night and a 2-0 lead over the Ottawa Senators in the NHL's championship series. Teams winning the first two games of the final at home have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 29 of 30 times, with the only exception in 1971 when Chicago lost to Montreal in seven games.
"The most important thing is to win the game but of course it's great to score the goal," said Pahlsson.
Ottawa's shot at becoming the first Canadian champion in 14 years has thus been relegated to longshot proportions as the best-of-seven series shifts to Canada's capital for games Saturday and Monday.
The Senators have lost two consecutive games in regulation time for the first time since last December.
"We played better but we were still beaten," said coach Bryan Murray. "They got the matchups they wanted at home and they took advantage of them.
"Their D and their checking line have been the stories of the series so far."
The Senators will hope a home crowd and the last line change will help them turn the tide.
"We've played well in our own building," said Murray. "We have to do it, absolutely have to do it, this time and give ourselves a chance to come back here and get one.
"We've got to get skating the way we did to get this far. If we do that, then we'll handle it fine."
On the winning goal, a Dany Heatley giveaway at the Ottawa blue-line allowed Pahlsson to gain control of the puck. The Swedish centre shot from the circle to the left of goaltender Ray Emery and, as Joe Corvo charged towards him to check, he let go a quick wrist shot through Corvo's legs and past Emery.
"I shot it through the legs of the defenceman and somehow it went in," said Pahlsson.
It was a tough break for the Senators' goalie, whose valiant effort had kept his team in the game.
The hard-hitting, fast-moving contest was played in front of another loud Honda Center sellout crowd of 17,258 including about 500 Senators fans who'd made the trip from various Canadian cities and towns.
Murray needed more from his big guns than he got in the 3-2 Game 1 loss Monday so he started the game by taking Daniel Alfredsson off his first line and using him with Peter Schaefer and Mike Fisher. Chris Neil took Alfredsson's place alongside Jason Spezza and Heatley.
The Ducks picked up right where they left off in Game 1 by hitting every red, white and black sweater that moved. Halfway through the first period, they had peppered 10 shots on Emery, while the Senators had managed only one on Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Murray reunited Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley. The Senators then got a two-man advantage for more than a minute and did everything but score. They played better the rest of the period, and Neil, Anton Volchenkov and Christoph Schubert finally started knocking some Ducks down.
Murray briefly reverted at the start of the second period to the line combinations he used to begin the game, but he quickly had Alfredsson back with Spezza and Heatley.
The line shuffling had little effect. The Senators couldn't mount much offence any way they lined up. Anaheim had a 12-7 shots edge in the first period and a 14-4 advantage in the second.
Emery, dropping to his knees to make many of his saves and sprawling in his crease as Ducks crowded him, was keeping his team in it.
Anaheim's line of Ryan Getzlaf between Dustin Penner and Corey Perry continued to give the Senators fits, but there still were no goals after 40 minutes.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle kept his checking line of Pahlsson between Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer on Spezza and Heatley and whoever they were skating with. Pahlsson killed Spezza on faceoffs, winning 10 and losing two, while Spezza won only three and lost 13.
The Senators tightened their checking in the third and reduced the Ducks' scoring chances. It was their best period of the series so far but it amounted to a hill of beans when Pahlsson broke the scoreless tie.
"It was a great shot, a good play on his part," said Murray.
Pahlsson also scored the winning goal that knocked Detroit out of the Western Conference final. Pahlsson, Moen, who netted the Game 1 winner, and Niedermayer have combined for five winning goals in the 2007 playoffs.
"That line, right from the beginning of the year, has been able to give us quality minutes," said Carlyle. "A lot of the time the spotlight is not directed at them but, right now, they're in it."
The Senators tried as hard as they could to force overtime and Schaeffer missed an open net with three minutes left.
Shots were 5-5 in the third period and Anaheim outshot Ottawa 31-16 on the night in winning its fifth consecutive game. It was the fewest number of shots allowed by the Ducks in their 18 playoff games (14-4).
"This game was very, very close all night," said Carlyle. "Anytime you win a 1-0 hockey game in the Stanley Cup final, you've got to feel fortunate that bounces went your way."
The Ducks improved to 9-2 at home during the playoffs, and Giguere appears to have entered the same zone he was in when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2003 when Anaheim lost to New Jersey in a seven-game final. This Ducks lineup is better that four years ago, said Giguere.
"We have a lot more offensive power and a lot more size and those things make my job a lot easier," said Giguere.
The last West Coast team to win the oldest team trophy in pro sports was the Victoria Cougars in 1925.
CP Player of the Game: Sammy Paulsson. Scored game's only goal with 5:44 left. Won 10 of 12 faceoffs he took.
Notes: Anaheim had a 36-28 edge in hits . . . Each team was 0-for-4 on power plays . . . Anaheim D Francois Beauchemin led all skaters in ice time with 30 minutes 55 seconds . . . LW Oleg Saprykin was reinserted by Ottawa in place of Patrick Eaves . . . The referees were Bill McCreary of Guelph, Ont., and Brad Watson of Regina . . . Ottawa's Antoine Vermette entered the game with the best faceoff win percentage (60.2 - 174 wins and 115 losses) of any player on the ice . . . Anaheim could become the first team since the 1975 Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup the same season as leading the NHL in penalty minutes . . . Former Oilers forward Ryan Smyth, soon to become an unrestricted free agent, was in the crowd . . . Celebrities spotted in the crowd included actors James Caan, Ray Liotta, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Lucas and Jerry O'Connell, hip hop artist Snoop Dogg, Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer and former baseball player Mark McGwire.