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Ducks Easy Prey for Blues Before Franchise-Low 11,134


The Mighty Ducks wanted a fast start Sunday against the St. Louis Blues at the Arrowhead Pond. They wanted to act instead of react. They wanted to hit rather than get hit. They wanted to attack instead of defend.

Never happened.

And the postgame self-analysis flowed freely after a 5-1 loss before a crowd of 11,134, a franchise low, that might have been closer to 8,500.

Certainly, the Ducks were better at finding the truth than finding scoring chances. The bottom line was that the Ducks were outworked and worked over by the Blues, the NHL's top team last season with 114 points.

"It was the same way they played all last year," left wing Mike Leclerc said of the Blues. "I think we can learn a lot from them. They were a little more willing [to work] than we were."

Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky put it this way: "It looks like over the summer we forgot what kind of team we are. We have to outplay the other guys. It's as simple as that."

Added winger Dan Bylsma, "We got a lesson from a team that understands the importance of hard work."

The Ducks have until Wednesday's game against the Boston Bruins to let Sunday's schooling sink in.

Pick an area of the game and the Blues were better than the Ducks. The Ducks played St. Louis even for about half of the opening period, then seemed to put their game on cruise control. They soon paid the price.

The Blues played with the same intensity from start to finish, patiently waiting for breakthroughs that came in the form of three second-period goals. The Ducks were all but finished after Ladislav Nagy, Scott Young and Jochen Hecht scored for the Blues.

"It wasn't just when they scored those two goals," Leclerc said, referring to goals by Nagy and Young only 2:25 apart early in the second. "They were already outplaying us."

Pierre Turgeon padded the Blues' lead, converting on a two-on-one break with Lubos Bartecko to make the score 4-0 at 13:27 of the final period.

Defenseman Chris Pronger, who had an otherwise unremarkable game, added a late power-play goal for the Blues' fifth goal.

Center German Titov scored his first goal as a Duck to end St. Louis goaltender Roman Turek's shutout bid with 3:27 to play. Titov, who began the game playing between all-star wingers Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, had been dropped to the second line by then. Antti Aalto and Matt Cullen took several late-game shifts between Kariya and Selanne as Coach Craig Hartsburg looked for an offensive spark.

"We haven't generated anything," Kariya said when asked about his line's lack of production in two games without injured center Steve Rucchin. They also were blanked in Friday's 3-1 victory over the expansion Minnesota Wild.

"We're just off," Kariya said. "We're not getting our shots off. I don't think we're creating enough scoring chances. It's a concern when you're not creating scoring chances. It's different when you're getting chances and not scoring. I don't have an answer for that right now."

Unlike Friday, the Ducks had no margin for error against the Blues. Mistakes turned into goals for St. Louis instead of missed opportunities, as in Friday's game.

The first two goals were cases in point.

First, Nagy pounced on a loose puck that Duck defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski failed to locate between his skates. A streaking Nagy suddenly found himself alone in front of Guy Hebert, then easily slipped the puck behind the Duck goalie only 2:39 into the second period.

Next, Turgeon outmuscled defenseman Pavel Trnka for a loose puck behind Hebert's net, feeding a quick pass in front to an uncovered Young. Hebert had no chance to stop Young's one-timer.

Just like that, the Ducks were down by two goals and, given their lackluster play, there seemed little chance for a comeback.

"You don't want to have to come back against a good team like St. Louis," Bylsma said. "One of the things we talked about was jumping on them early. It's what they ended up doing to us."

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