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A Short Cut to Victory

Sauer and Niedermayer score short-handed goals in Game 2, Giguere shuts out Wild again and Ducks are two games from finals.

May 13, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Mighty Ducks may have found their power play ... hiding among their penalty killers.

The Minnesota Wild was left looking for new weapons ... after the verbal stinger it tossed at goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, contending his pads were illegal, was no more effective than any of its shots.

The Ducks won by more than one goal for the first time in the playoffs ... inching closer to their first Stanley Cup final.

All this played out in the Ducks' 2-0 victory Monday in front of 19,344, many of whom bolted from the Xcel Energy Center and out into their State of Hockey in a state of shock.

The Ducks, with only four power-play goals in the playoffs, got two short-handed goals, by Kurt Sauer and Rob Niedermayer. Giguere, accused of using illegal pads, extended his goal-less streak to 153 minutes 17 seconds.

That left both teams in familiar positions.

The Ducks, leading the Western Conference finals, two game to none, had won the first two games on the road for the third consecutive series in this postseason, an NHL record. The Wild was in another deep hole, as it had been in its previous two series.

"We can't look at anything as being done," Niedermayer said. "They have been down, 3-1, before. We have seen that team come back already in this playoff. We don't want to give them any life."

The Ducks' previous nine playoff victories this year had been by one goal and they had led by more than one goal only twice in the playoffs. They owed their two-goal victory to special-team work.

The Duck power play got out of the way.

The Duck penalty killers did the rest.

The Wild had the top power play in the playoffs when the series began and is now scoreless in eight tries against the Ducks, three on Monday.

"We did a good job of cutting down on the shots Jiggy saw," defenseman Keith Carney. "We did a good job clearing pucks down the ice."

And they did a good job scoring goals.

"Yeah," Carney said, "that was nice too."

With the Ducks killing a Niedermayer penalty, Steve Rucchin was hooked by Sergei Zholtok. Before play was stopped, Dan Bylsma loitered with the puck, Rucchin borrowed it off his stick and passed to Sauer, who had one goal in the regular season. His shot went off a stick and past goalie Dwayne Roloson on the stick side for a 1-0 lead 7:24 into the second period.

"I saw the official with his hand up, so instead of chipping it into the corner, I just stick handled for a second," Bylsma said. "I would have never done that if I hadn't seen it was a penalty."

The Ducks' second short-handed goal came after Minnesota's Cliff Ronning broke his stick trying to shoot from the blue line. Niedermayer snatched the puck and was off on a breakaway. He buried a shot over Roloson's right shoulder for his second short-handed goal of the playoffs 8:06 into the third period.

"You don't see too many short-handed goals," Rucchin said. "But two? You better win."

That better-win situation is what the Wild faces heading into Game 3 on Wednesday in Anaheim.

Only 34 teams have rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win an NHL playoff series. Only 15 of those have lost the first two games at home.

The Wild can cling to the fact it has rallied from 3-1 series deficits twice already in this postseason, an NHL first.

"It's only a matter of getting a goal here and there and all the atmosphere will change on the bench and in the room," Wild Coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Just when those goals might happen is anyone's guess. The Wild had 16 goals in its final three games against Vancouver in the conference semifinals but has none in eight periods (including two overtimes in Game 1) against Giguere and the Ducks.

Giguere has four shutout streaks of more than 100 minutes in the playoffs. He is the fourth goalie in NHL history to have consecutive shutouts in a conference final.

The Wild tried new tactics in this game, or rather before it. Wild players questioned the size of Giguere's pads after losing, 1-0, in Game 1 Saturday.

"It was weird for them to talk about that," Duck winger Steve Thomas said. "You would have to be really stupid to use illegal equipment."

Giguere deflected the verbal repartee as easily as he did the Wild's 24 shots.

Andrew Brunette whiffed on the puck at the left post with a gaping net before him five minutes into the game. That was the closest the Wild came to scoring against Giguere, who has four consecutive shutouts against Minnesota, including two 1-0 victories in the regular season.

Giguere stopped Wes Walz' shot from the slot 18:45 into the first period. On a second-period power play, Walz came from behind the net, turned and fired, only to find Giguere waiting. And so it went.

"It's not easy to win on the road, especially in the playoffs," Rucchin said. "J-S makes that a lot easier."

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