The Stanley Cup might've been born in Ottawa, but it's very close to relocating to Southern California.
The Anaheim Ducks are a win away from their first NHL championship.
While a Canadian team hasn't captured the Cup since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens earned their 23rd, the U.S. sun belt is on the verge of its third straight. Tampa Bay and Carolina bookended the 2004-05 lockout with unexpected titles.
And to think the Ducks got here without star defenseman Chris Pronger, who served his second one-game suspension of these playoffs. Andy McDonald bailed him out with a pair of goals and an assist on Dustin Penner's tiebreaker in the third period, lifting the Ducks, 3-2 over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
"I didn't really watch a whole lot. I had my back to the TV," Pronger said. "When you don't have a say in what's going on out there, it's very tough to watch and nerve-racking, more so than when you're in the game."
The Ducks will carry a 3-1 advantage back to Anaheim, where they are 7-0 in clinching games, including 3-0 this year. This one became possible because of the Ducks' first road win in the finals in six chances over two series.
McDonald scored twice in the second period, then shook free of hard-hitting nemesis Chris Neil to help set up Penner. Anaheim is 5-0 in the finals on home ice and can secure its first Stanley Cup title as early as Wednesday night.
"We're going to enjoy it here probably for the next couple of minutes," McDonald said. "But this game is over, and we have to get ready for the next game."
Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit, came back from such a hole in the finals to win in 28 such situations.
"Sunk in?" Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We know we have a 3-1 lead, but the reality of it is the next one is going to be the toughest one to win."
Anaheim moved into position despite a miserable first period in which it was outshot 13-2 without Pronger, a Norris Trophy finalist who served a one-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Dean McAmmond in Game 3 on Saturday.
General manager Brian Burke was incensed Sunday that Pronger was suspended while Neil wasn't, claiming the only difference was McAmmond was injured and McDonald wasn't when Neil charged and landed a high, hard hit in Game 3.
"Chris is a big part of our team," goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "I'm sure in a way he feels bad he couldn't help us. But we know he's going to make it up in two days."
Neil missed Monday's big hit on McDonald and instead crashed into the boards. McDonald got the puck up ice to Teemu Selanne.
Skating alongside Penner, with only defenseman Anton Volchenkov back, Selanne moved the puck across to Penner, who beat Ray Emery 4:07 into the third to snap a 2-2 tie. It was his first goal in 12 games and came during a line change.
"He put it right on my tape, and I had an open net to put it in," Penner said.
Dany Heatley had hisbest game of the finals, scoring his first goal of the series to get Ottawa even 2-2 with 2 minutes left in the second period. Heatley struggled along with linemates Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, who had been shut down through three games.
Alfredsson netted his second of the series with less than a second left in the first period to stake Ottawa to a 1-0 lead.
Spezza, who went pointless in consecutive games for the first time since October, earned an assist on Heatley's seventh of the playoffs. That restored excitement to a nervous arena that might've seen the Senators' last home game of the best season in team history.
"You don't get big leads very often," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "If we could have gotten a little more reward, it probably would have been better."
Ottawa managed only four shots in the second period - to Anaheim's 13 - three taken by Heatley.
"He scored a big goal for us to get back in the game," Alfredsson said. "It gave us some momentum going into the third. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the winning goal."
Giguere, the playoffs MVP in 2003 when the Ducks lost Game 7 of the finals at New Jersey, stopped 21 shots. That was enough to give Anaheim its record-tying 12th one-goal win of the postseason (12-2).
Alfredsson, Ottawa's captain, was the last-second hero in the first period, but turned into the villain in the final moments of the second. He inexplicably faked a shot on net, reloaded and fired the puck from center ice at Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer.
The usually mild-mannered defenseman, a three-time Cup champion in his days with New Jersey, angrily engaged Alfredsson.
"You can probably figure out what I thought," Niedermayer said. "I wasn't happy. No need to get hit with a puck at that point. I'm not going to say anything more."
Suddenly the Ducks had momentum and a purpose heading into the final period - quite a change from the first.
Just as it seemed the Ducks would survive the penalty-filled and offensively challenged frame unscathed, Alfredsson one-timed a pass from Peter Schaefer past Giguere with 0.3 seconds left.
Alfredsson, playing in his 98th consecutive playoff contest with the Senators, scored for the second straight game after being blanked in Anaheim. Unlike Saturday, when he scored off his skate and had to wait out a video replay, there was no doubt about his NHL-leading 12th of the playoffs.
Emery, who made 18 saves, didn't have much to do in the opening period, facing his first shot nearly 12 minutes in and seeing only one more the rest of the way.
Anaheim enjoyed the only two power plays of the second, but couldn't take advantage. Instead, the Ducks scored twice at even strength and held a 13-4 edge in shots.
McDonald tied it midway through the period, then notched his ninth of the playoffs exactly a minute later for a 2-1 lead. He nearly had another goal earlier in the period, but his shot rang right off the post.
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