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Sykora Is Double Trouble

Duck winger's play on both ends of ice is a key to victory in Game 6.

June 08, 2003|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

The Mighty Ducks acquired winger Petr Sykora from New Jersey because of his ability to score goals, but he's proving to be much more than just an offensive force in the Stanley Cup finals against his former teammates.

Sykora, who had a goal and two assists in the Ducks' 5-2 victory over the Devils in Game 6 on Saturday, is getting used to playing a complete game in the playoffs. Whether he's banging in the corners for pucks or chasing down opponents from behind with an all-out backcheck, Sykora is giving the Ducks all they could ask for in their quest for their first Cup.

"Petr was just unbelievable tonight," Duck defenseman Keith Carney said. "He along with Oatsie [Adam Oates] and Paul [Kariya]; this was a huge game for them. They've been working so hard and tonight, everything just came together.

"They skated well, made good decisions with the puck and put a lot of pressure on [the Devil defense]."

Sykora had a hand in the Ducks' first goal Saturday when he passed to Kariya as he entered the Devil zone early in the opening period. After gathering in Sykora's pass, Kariya fired a shot that deflected off a Devil directly to Steve Rucchin, whose shot deflected off Scott Stevens into the net to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 4:26.

Sykora then did his work on the defensive end. Because New Jersey features a lineup that not only has size but also plenty of speed with such players as John Madden, Sykora had to dust off his wheels to prevent more than one scoring chance.

In the second period, Sykora was on the ice when Stevens crunched Kariya with a check in the neutral zone, which left the Duck captain momentarily out on his back. Although he didn't see the hit, Sykora is very familiar with the type of game-changing blow Stevens can deliver.

"I can't really comment [on the check], but Scotty is known for doing that," said Sykora, who played with Stevens in New Jersey from 1995 to 2002. "There are a lot of players who were hit by Scotty, and it changed the momentum of the game."

But the Ducks made sure that Stevens' hit did not turn things around Saturday.

Not only did Kariya return to the lineup, he and Sykora hooked up for maybe the most important goal of the game later in the period.

With the Ducks hanging on to a 3-1 lead, Sykora had the puck outside the blue line when he completed a perfect touch pass in the neutral zone to Kariya, who gathered in the puck in full stride down the left side of the ice.

Then from above the left circle, Kariya blasted home a shot past Martin Brodeur to virtually put the game out of reach for the Devils.

With a comfortable lead after two periods, Sykora finished the scoring for the Ducks when he scored his second goal of the series on a power play at 3:57 of the third.

"Everyone knows that they have a lot of physical players," said Sykora, whose fourth goal of the playoffs gave the Ducks a 5-1 lead. "We know that all we have to do is move the puck better and not give them a chance for open ice hits. We have to take the physical in order to make a play. This is the Stanley Cup finals and it's do or die for us.

"We're hoping to carry this to Game 7 to a building that we haven't played too well in [during the finals]. Hopefully, we've learned our lesson from our first three games there."

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