Bobby Ryan is having the type of season most rookies can only dream of.
Ryan netted a pair of goals to pace the Ducks to a dominating 4-0 victory over the reeling San Jose Sharks on Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.
Guided by Ryan's scoring prowess, the Ducks took a 3-1 series lead in their Western Conference quarter-final matchup.
Anaheim can now pull off a huge upset and knock off the No. 1 seeded Sharks when the series resumes in San Jose on Saturday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
"I don't think they certainly expected this," said Ryan. "We have said all along we're not your typical eighth seed. We think we belong in that upper echelon in the Western Conference. A roller-coaster year put us there, but we thought we could make some noise, and it's showing on their faces."
Ryan, who was drafted right after the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Sidney Crosby in the 2005 NHL draft, scored his third and fourth goals of the post-season, joining Boston's Michael Ryder and Phil Kessel and Penguins star Evgeni Malkin for the playoff lead.
The Calder Trophy nominee also led all NHL rookies with 31 goals in the regular season.
Winger Corey Perry scored Anaheim's third goal and netminder Jonas Hiller made 31 saves to earn his second shutout of the series. Perry added an assist, while Drew Miller chipped in with an empty-net marker.
"They almost had no chance for rebounds," said Hiller. "I saw the puck quite well. … I think everybody knows the fourth game is the most difficult to win. I think we showed a reaction tonight after the last game, where we were not happy how we played. Tonight, everybody was fighting and giving a little more."
San Jose, which won the Presidents' Trophy with 117 points in the regular season, has only managed five goals in four games against the eighth-seeded Ducks.
Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves for the Sharks, who will suffer yet another early post-season exit if they lose again in the best-of-seven series.
"We have to find a way to score more goals," said Nabokov, whose save percentage for the series is below 90 per cent. "When you're losing the series, a lot of things get questioned. Obviously, there's something they're doing right, and something we're not doing right."
After making the Western Conference final in 2004, San Jose has been ousted in the second round of the last three Stanley Cup playoffs.
Led by a superior home record (32-5-4), the Sharks were supposed to contend for the franchise's first Stanley Cup. But two homes loses to the Ducks in their series have the team in a major hole.
The Ducks would become the eighth team to oust a No. 1 seed since 1994 should they claim the series.
"I'm not surprised that they were hungry. I'm disappointed that we weren't," said Todd McLellan, the Sharks' rookie coach. "That's the only word I can use: disappointed. I think our character was questioned tonight, and we'll have to see how we respond."
Not so nasty
Thursday night's contest didn't exhibit the same nastiness that highlighted Game 3.
Following a Ducks goal that was waved off in the second, Anaheim regrouped to take a 1-0 lead at 6:33. Ryan put a nice move on Sharks winger Jonathan Cheechoo before sending a shot by Nabokov.
The period was then delayed for more than 15 minutes when a hit by Milan Michalek on Ryan shattered the glass separating both benches.
Unfazed, Ryan struck again moments later to give Anaheim a 2-0 advantage. Seizing an open area in the slot, Ryan buried a rebound off the skate of San Jose defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and over a sprawled Nabokov.
Perry sealed the victory following a Joe Thornton turnover with less than six minutes remaining in the final period. The Ducks forward scored his first goal of the season as he deflected a Ryan Getzlaf shot behind Nabokov.
Miller finished off the scoring in the last minute of play.
Both teams failed to score on a combined six power plays.
The Ducks are 3-for-14 on the power play in this matchup, while San Jose has scored three goals on 17 chances.