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Crowd Helps Fan Ducks' Fire

Babcock and his team pay tribute to 'deafening' support at the Pond as fans are rewarded with the series-clinching victory.

May 06, 2003|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Fans of the Mighty Ducks may have been scarce in December, but they were in full force Monday night to see their team advance to the conference finals.

And the Ducks needed their help as they closed out the Dallas Stars with a 4-3 victory at the Arrowhead Pond in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 17,174.

"[The crowd] was outstanding tonight," Duck Coach Mike Babcock said. "Anytime that you score any goals like we did, the crowd gets into it.... It was deafening. We couldn't even communicate with each other. We had to make sure on the bench that we knew what our [assignments] were. But this is what you play for. That's why we do this."

The Ducks certainly did not make it easy for their fans.

After taking a 3-2 lead early in the third period on a goal by Ruslan Salei at 3:22, the Ducks scrambled to stay ahead only to have the Stars' Stu Barnes score with nearly eight minutes remaining.

But after a lengthy review, the goal was disallowed because the net was off its moorings. The ruling definitely pleased the Ducks' fans.

"That was pretty tough to go through; the wait was tremendous," said Bill Donovan of San Clemente about the review of Barnes' barred goal. "It was excruciating to wait that long."

However, Duck fans did not have an opportunity to stay happy for long because Dallas came right back and scored a power-play goal by Brenden Morrow, which also was reviewed.

"With goals being called and reviewed, it was a very up and down [third] period," Duck center Steve Thomas said.

After Morrow's goal was ruled good at 14:49, Pond fans easily could have waited for overtime. Instead, they cheered the Ducks even more, which -- according to rookie Stanislav Chistov -- gave the team a boost.

"During the reviews, [Babcock] told us to stay calm and that whatever happened, happened," Chistov said. "It was tough, but we kept playing.

"Then the crowd was good. I think they really gave us a lift. It was good to see. A lot of people cheering."

The crowd's enthusiasm must have made a difference because with overtime only 66 seconds away, the Ducks put an end to the dramatic night when defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh scored the game-winning goal.

It was a victory for their fans.

"I feel great that we made it this far because I had no idea that they were going to beat the No. 1- and No. 2-seeded teams," said Mike Pigors of Huntington Beach, who attended the game with his wife and three kids. "I'm happier than heck. I truly believe that the fans made a difference tonight."

And the Ducks can bet that they will be there for the next round.

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