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Ducks Find the Road to Success

Hockey: They complete 3-0 trip with 1-0 victory at St. Louis, their fourth straight win. Giguere, Kariya star.

January 29, 2002|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ST. LOUIS — That Mighty Duck team huddle at the end of Monday's game said a lot. This seemed like the conclusion of another group therapy season, maybe for a Fear of Success 12-step program.

If so, count this as a breakthrough. The Ducks were superb defensively. They received excellent goaltending from Jean-Sebastien Giguere. And, for the first time this season, one goal was enough for them to win, 1-0 over the St. Louis Blues in front of 18,909 at the Savvis Center.

There was a little scrambling at the end, when the Blues pulled their goalie. Giguere had to make two bang-bang saves. But from start to finish, the Ducks were in control against a good team and made Paul Kariya's second-period goal stand up.

The payoff was more than just back-slaps and well-dones at the end. The Ducks won their fourth consecutive game, a season high. They finished off a perfect Dallas-Nashville-St. Louis trip, winning three games in four nights.

Not even the Ducks themselves would have dared predict such a thing.

"Before the trip?" defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky said, grinning.

Tverdovsky wasn't the only one a little stunned by the three victories.

"Has that ever happened before in Duck history?" Marty McInnis said.

On a trip of three or more games, only once. The Ducks went 4-0 on a swing through Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg in 1993-94, their first season. It has been so long that Winnipeg's team long ago pulled up stakes and moved to Phoenix.

"Wow," McInnis said. "That's pretty good.

"We have obviously been through a lot this season. The team has come together a little more on this road trip. We had a couple dinners out together. A lot of stuff that has been going on off the ice, in a strange way, has brought us together."

That would be a reference to General Manager Pierre Gauthier's trade inquiries with other teams, in which he dangled at least six players on the Anaheim roster. The Ducks responded to that with three road victories.

Monday's might have been their best performance of the three. Dallas had just fired its coach. Nashville was, well, Nashville. But the Blues' 147 goals before Monday were the third-most in the Western Conference.

They got 15 shots against the Ducks, who clogged passing lanes, blocked shots and reduced the amount of stress for Giguere. He saw only five shots in the third period.

The Blues' quality chances were few. In the second period, Giguere slid across the crease and stoned Keith Tkachuk, who seemed to have an open net. Scott Mellenby got off a quick wrist shot with 20 seconds left, but Giguere moved to his right and got his body on it. Tkachuk fired again on a rebound try with 15 seconds left, but Giguere easily deflected the puck.

The Ducks have become used to solid performances by Giguere, who began the night sixth in the league with a 2.14 goals-against average, third among goalies who have played 30 or more games.

But Giguere has been supported the last two games. The Ducks gave up 19 shots against Nashville Saturday and topped that performance Monday against a better team.

"We had to survive the first period," Duck Coach Bryan Murray said.

"[Giguere] had to get shutouts [earlier in the season] because that was the only way we were ever going to win early in the year. We're finally getting enough goals."

One was enough Monday. Andy McDonald carried the puck behind the net and centered a pass that hit St. Louis' Doug Weight. As the puck lay on the ice, Kariya reached around Weight and flicked a shot that beat goalie Fred Brathwaite to the glove side.

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