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Pro Hockey | DUCK REPORT

Mood Improves After Victory

November 27, 2001|Chris Foster

It took only two power-play goals, both with two-man advantages, and a third goal by enforcer Kevin Sawyer, a guy who had never scored in the NHL.

And as easy as 1-2-3, the Mighty Ducks had a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday, ending a nine-game winless streak and removing a little of the bitterness of an otherwise disastrous trip--losses in the first five games. Of course, the odds of such a harmonic convergence ever occurring again are astronomical.

Yet, there was hope in the Duck dressing room for the first time in weeks. The moping was gone, at least for one night.

"We needed something to build on," said goalie Steve Shields, whose desperate play in the final minutes preserved the victory. "We've had some positive efforts, or at least tried hard, in all but two games. I think for the confidence of this team, we have to win some of these games.

"Guys have to understand that you really have to prepare every game like this. You could tell the way the guys prepared for games, or the way the games played out, we weren't going to win. Because you had a mind-set.

"When you change that, it becomes a habit, a winning habit."

Well, hope floats. What weighs it down is that the Ducks have few breathers on their immediate schedule.

Edmonton plays at the Arrowhead Pond Wednesday and San Jose follows Friday. Nashville, which comes to town Sunday, seems more on the Ducks' level.

Then it's a four-game swing to Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado. But getting the one victory boosted spirits.

"It gives us a lift," team captain Paul Kariya said. "Obviously, we haven't had the best road trip in world. We have to use this momentum when we get home."

Shields is taking responsibility to help the Ducks through.

"We have to be able to steal a few games when everyone is struggling a little bit," he said. "We're not too sure what we're doing in our own end sometimes and we're giving up a lot of chances. Until we get everything worked out and the guys are playing with confidence again, then goalies have to really try to make the differences."

*

Shields made a difference Sunday. He was the rock the Ducks clung to in the third period. But another big reason the Ducks held on was center Samuel Pahlsson, who played like a first-line center in the final minutes.

Pahlsson won four consecutive faceoffs in the Duck zone. He beat Eric Lindros three times, forcing the Rangers to switch. Then he beat Petr Nedved.

"We didn't lose the draws, so we had a chance to play with the puck in the corner and not defend so much," Shields said.

Coach Bryan Murray said, "Sammy was real good. They had to take Eric out and put Petr in. That's a real compliment to Sammy, that he beat Lindros regularly in key situations."

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