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Falling Stars Seen in Anaheim

Hockey: Ducks win, 4-1, taking great pleasure in sidetracking Dallas' push for a Western Conference playoff spot.


The scoreboard told the final score: Mighty Ducks 4, Dallas Stars 1.

But the grin said it all Sunday.

Duck defenseman Ruslan Salei was asked how it felt to manhandle the Stars--again--and put Dallas' playoff hopes in jeopardy. Salei stared off into the distance with a smirk that said it all. "Obviously it feels great," Salei said. "What is it, three times now?"

Yeah, but who's counting?

The Stars were 26-10-1-1 against the Ducks before going 1-3-1 this season. Sunday was another sign how times have changed.

The Ducks got goals by Patric Kjellberg, German Titov, Mike Leclerc and Paul Kariya in front of an announced 14,661 at the Arrowhead Pond. They got another excellent performance from goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. And they got plenty of satisfaction.

"We definitely like beating this team," Leclerc said.

"It's nice to stick it back to Dallas. We have taken a lot of [junk] from them over the years. It's nice to give it back."

The Stars have been dull and efficient in the last five seasons, using that style to win a Stanley Cup in 1998-99. Now they are just dull.

They are also two points out of eighth place in the Western Conference going into tonight's game against the Kings and could miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

"These are points we feel we should get, points we haven't gotten," Dallas forward Rob DiMaio said. "It's tough to lose to a team like this."

There are a few teams feeling that way the last two weeks. The Ducks have beaten Phoenix, Edmonton and Dallas twice in that time. Of course, all that means for the Ducks is they have a shot of passing Nashville and Minnesota and finishing ahead of every expansion team that followed them into the NHL.

"We don't care who is in the playoffs," Coach Bryan Murray said. "If we're not in, it doesn't matter. We're not doing anybody any favors. We're just going to play and try to prove some things. Somebody from Edmonton said they played down to our level. They didn't play up to our level."

The Stars couldn't reach that level Sunday. The score was tied, 1-1, in the second period when Titov tried to center a pass to Matt Cullen. Goalie Eddie Belfour dived to block the pass, but the puck hit his stick and went into the net.

The Ducks were outshot, 37-22, Sunday, but put more pucks in the net. Leclerc took a pass from Cullen and chipped in a shot for his 20th goal. It gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead 6:45 into the third period. Kariya then blasted a shot past Belfour three minutes later.

Giguere was nearly unbeatable. Only Brent Gilchrist got a shot past him in the first period. It ended Giguere's shutout streak at 109 minutes 31 seconds.

"The last couple weeks have been unbelievable," Cullen said. "We have been put into the role of the spoiler. It's not the role we want, but we're happy to do it."

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