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A Duck Power Launch

Leclerc scores with a man advantage with 1:47 to go in the third period and Giguere is outstanding again in goal, giving Anaheim a 3-1 series edge over Stars.

May 01, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Mike Leclerc was lurking, gliding to the right of the net, in danger of violating Anaheim loitering laws.

Seconds later he had given the Dallas Stars the bum's rush.

Leclerc, still hobbling on a sore left knee, finally got a shot past Stars' goalie Marty Turco with 1 minute 47 seconds left Wednesday to give the Mighty Ducks a 1-0 victory and a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals.

The Ducks were on the power play, but a tense crowd of 17,174 at the Arrowhead Pond seemed to be staring at another overtime when Sandis Ozolinsh slid a cross-ice pass to a waiting Leclerc.

"Sandis and I made eye contact and I knew he was going to get me the puck," Leclerc said. "I had just missed a great chance a few minutes earlier and was kicking myself on the bench. I had a lot of space there and Sandis sucked everybody to him."

Up until that shot, the game was a standoff between two of the bright young goalies in the NHL. Turco stopped 21 of 22 shots, with a handful of sliding saves. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was his usual steady self, with 28 saves for his first career playoff shutout.

It might have remained that way well into the morning had not two unthinkable things occurred.

Jason Arnott took a bad penalty. The Duck power play scored a goal.

"We flinched first," Star center Mike Modano said.

Arnott was called for cross-checking Rob Niedermayer into the boards at 16:44. The Ducks, who were two for 31 in the playoffs, made amends for four poor power plays in the game.

"Finally one went well," Ozolinsh said. "I didn't see Mike at first, but as I went down low a lane opened. We have had so many ups and downs on the power play, but that was a good time to get one."

There was no better time for one for the Ducks. They head back to Dallas with the opportunity Saturday to finish off the Stars, the Western Conference's top-seeded team.

"That would have [stunk] going back to Dallas 2-2 after winning the first two games," Leclerc said. "We had to have this one."

No one was getting ahead of himself, however.

"We know they are not going to go away, we're going to have to put them away," Duck Coach Mike Babcock said.

Leclerc has put the Stars away twice. He scored 1:44 into overtime to win Game 2, then came up with a suitable encore Wednesday.

"Just to be able to play in the playoffs is enough," said Leclerc, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in November. "To score a couple of game-winners is just great."

Said Babcock: "It just shows you that a little perseverance goes a long way. It is a chance of a lifetime right now, why would you let an injury hold you up?"

For perseverance, all the Ducks had to do is review Giguere on the game video.

In the third period, with Dallas on the power play, Modano took a drop pass and had an open net. He even began to raise his stick in celebration after shooting, but Giguere managed to slide back to his left and get his left skate on the puck.

"That was a spectacular save, but as I have said, if I make a spectacular save, it means I was out of position," Giguere said.

In the second period, Scott Young and Claude Lemieux both got off one-timers at the crease that Giguere managed to smother.

"I have never seen a goalie have a playoff run like this," said Duck right wing Steve Thomas, a veteran of 19 seasons. "He's a rock. He's a wall. There aren't adjectives that properly describe what he is doing for us right now."

Turco nearly did the same for the Stars.

Late in the first period, Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov tripped at the blue line, leaving the puck on a silver platter for Paul Kariya. Turco deflected Kariya's shot. In the second period, Arnott lost his footing and the puck behind the Stars' net. Turco denied Kariya on a backhand try.

"You're going to get great goaltending at this time of the year," Babcock said. "They are special people. It's nothing-nothing and you know if one goes in you've lost the game."

One went in and the Stars lost the game.

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