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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS / DUCKS 1, MINNESOTA O (2 OT)
| Helene Elliott / ON THE NHL

Ducks' Pat Answer

They Always Keep Cool When Overtime Heats Up

May 11, 2003|Helene Elliott

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Adam Oates can pinpoint the day the blood in the Mighty Ducks' veins turned to ice water and they realized they had nothing to fear but fear itself because goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere would take care of the rest.

"Game 1 against Detroit, Jiggy really stood on his head," Oates said, referring to Giguere's 36 saves in sudden-death play and 62 overall in the victory in their playoff opener. "We've been playing off that."

And playing. And playing.

Who could have known that one performance, superb though it was, would fuel an improbable playoff run that shows no signs of ending?

The Ducks' 1-0 double-overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday in the opener of the Western Conference finals represented the third time they've started a series on the road with a multiple-overtime triumph. It was also the fifth time they've put themselves within one mistake or one bad bounce of trudging off the ice with the deflated spirits and slumped shoulders the Wild had Saturday.

"We're comfortable playing in that situation," winger Paul Kariya said. "Certainly, there's adrenaline flowing through overtime and you realize one mistake can end the game and one great play can win the game."

The Ducks continue to stay on the right side of that proverbially fine line. It can't all be luck, and it has nothing to do with karma or destiny or all those hackneyed Cinderella analogies.

"We've been there and we know we're going to win," said Duck winger Mike Leclerc, whose pass to Petr Sykora on a two-on-one break created the chance for the game's only goal. "It's attitude. You have to believe."

The only instructions on the chalkboard in the Ducks' locker room at the Xcel Energy Center were that the team meal would be served in the hotel banquet room next door to where they had eaten on Friday. Nowhere did it say, "Hold on for overtime and patiently wait for a mistake and score a goal that stuns the crowd and gives you the home-ice advantage."

But it might as well have. It's a game plan that has served them well and was especially effective Saturday against a team that was playing its fourth game in less than six days.

Facing elimination by the Canucks, the Wild had won Monday at Vancouver, Wednesday at home and Thursday at Vancouver, careening between time zones and airports. Adrenaline and a roaring, sellout crowd of 19,350 carried them for a while -- and carried them to a 39-26 edge in shots -- but the Ducks proved too solid a wall for the Wild to vault on emotion alone.

"We just kept coming, and Giguere was there for us," said Duck defenseman Kurt Sauer, a Minnesota native. "They were on us in the third period and Giguere kept us in the game. You've got to play a solid 60 minutes."

He paused. "Well, today it was more than that," he said, smiling.

A lot more. But no more worrisome for the Ducks than any other time.

"We definitely get confidence from the times we've been in these situations before," defenseman Keith Carney said. "We've had some success.

"We're prepared to play as long as we have to. We just have tons of confidence in Jiggy."

As well they should, given his overtime shutout streak of 160 minutes 49 seconds, second in league history to Patrick Roy's record 162 minutes 56 seconds.

"I hope he breaks it," center Steve Rucchin said. "Actually, no. I hope he helps us win in regulation.

"It's Jiggy's goaltending that has kept us in every game, and when it comes down to one shot, we've got players who can put the puck in the net, like Petr did today. We just need the one chance."

Giguere himself said overtime doesn't fray his nerves or flutter his pulse. Exactly what might rattle him remains undiscovered.

"This is not the time to be nervous," he said. "You apply everything you learn from your years in the game. The overtime goes by so fast. There's no time to think. You just use your skills and you should do well."

But this well, in this many overtime games?

"You want to win it earlier," he said, "but however long it takes, five periods, eight periods, that's how long we'll play.

"They're exactly the same type of team we are. That makes for a good game. Somehow, I don't think this is going to be the last one that goes to overtime."

Bad news for anyone who has a plane to catch, but the best possible news for the Ducks. "We don't want to go to overtime," Oates said. "No one does. But we're playing a team that's very patient, just like us.

"We obviously have a lot of respect for them and we've got to find a way to play better."

There's nothing better than overtime for a team with ice water in its veins.

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