The Vancouver Canucks' offence may have gone south in these playoffs, just not as far as Anaheim.
While the visiting Canucks struggled to generate quality scoring chances, Andy McDonald scored three goals and set up another as the Ducks skated to a 5-1 victory in Game 1 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal at the Honda Center.
Willie Mitchell and Roberto Luongo watch Andy McDonald (19) score in Wednesday's 5-1 Ducks home win.
(Chris Carlson/Associated Press)
"They were the better team tonight," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said.
It was McDonald's first playoff hat trick in the NHL.
"It is pretty exciting," he said. "It is just nice to be able to contribute."
The Canucks could be forgiven for being fatigued, having clinched their opening-round series over the Dallas Stars on Monday, and travelled to California on Tuesday.
The Ducks, meantime, were well rested after disposing of the Minnesota Wild last Thursday, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 26 of 27 shots in the win.
"He gave us the required netminding," Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. "Key saves at the key time and not many rebounds."
Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne each had a goal and an assist, and Chris Kunitz contributed three assists as the second-seeded Ducks took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"We came out and skated like we wanted," Getzlaf said.
Game 2 goes Friday at Anaheim (CBC, 10 p.m. ET).
"We have got to refocus and leave this one behind us," Canucks defenceman Mattias Ohlund said.
Jeff Cowan scored for the third-ranked Canucks, who struggled to contain the plucky Ducks without defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo.
Salo reportedly is suffering from back spasms after being slew-footed by Stars forward Ladislav Nagy in Monday's 4-1 victory.
The Canucks claimed Bieksa was simply under the weather, but speculation is he has a torso injury.
Rookie Alexander Edler and Rory Fitzpatrick replaced them in the lineup, while forward Jannick Hansen was scratched in favour of fellow rookie Nathan Smith, who offers more grit up front.
Roberto Luongo was tested often by the Ducks, giving up four goals on 31 shots before being replaced by backup netminder Dany Sabourin with 10:55 remaining.
"I didn't take him out to rest him," Vigneault said. "Fatigue was not an issue.
"I just rested him because it was 4-1, we're not scoring a lot of goals and I didn't want to take a risk [of injury]."
Luongo sparkled with a .950 save percentage as Vancouver dispatched Dallas in seven games, and he'll have to be just as good, if not better, against the Ducks.
"He is a great goaltender," McDonald said. "We had to have a good night."
Canucks struggling to score
The Canucks were blanked three times by the Stars, raising concerns about Vancouver's ability to score against Anaheim, which is anchored defensively by former Norris Trophy winners Scott Niedermayer (2004) and Chris Pronger (2000).
"We're going to try to keep the puck away from them and protect it better," Vigneault said. "There's a lot for us to focus on the next few days."
Niedermayer and Pronger could prove problematic for Vancouver, which was held scoreless by the Stars for roughly 168 minutes, or more than eight periods, before ending the drought in Game 7 with four goals, including two empty-netters.
Offensive sparkplugs Daniel and Henrik Sedin combined for seven points in the first round, but Canucks captain Markus Naslund has yet to play with his customary crispness.
Naslund nearly opened the scoring in the second minute when he snuck behind the defence, but the puck rolled off his stick as he tried to deke Giguere.
Cowan, though, was rewarded on a similar play 7:07 into the contest, pouncing on a loose puck behind Niedermayer and swatting it over Giguere's blocker for his first NHL playoff goal.
"I thought we had a good start," Vigneault said. "But then, we got into penalty trouble that gave them momentum."
McDonald sparks Ducks
Anaheim tied it 1-1 on a power-play goal from McDonald, who retrieved the puck in the slot and fired it between Luongo's pads for his second goal of the playoffs at 9:24.
Selanne, who led Anaheim with 48 goals this season, took McDonald's pass in the slot and beat Luongo with a backhand shot for his second of the playoffs at 14:56 of the first period.
Selanne then burst up ice on a 2-on-1 break with McDonald, who slid the puck under Luongo for his second goal and third point of the period with 49 seconds left.
"We moved the puck around and used our speed," McDonald said.
Corey Perry thought he had made it 4-1 late in the second period, but video review confirmed that the net was knocked off its moorings as Luongo juggled the puck and the goal was disallowed.
Getzlaf officially put the Ducks up 4-1 midway through the third period, finishing off a pretty three-way pass play involving Dustin Penner and Perry for his third.
"It was great," Getzlaf said. "I had the open net."
McDonald then beat Sabourin between the pads from a sharp angle to complete the scoring with his third goal of the night with 58 seconds remaining.
"They're an offence-oriented team," Vigneault said. "They make the right decisions with the puck."With the files from Sports Network