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Coaches Sensed Trouble

Wild players appear flat before Game 2, then play that way in getting shut out for a second game in a row.

May 13, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Mario Tremblay and Mike Ramsey weren't on a reconnaissance mission or anything, but what they saw and heard -- or maybe what they didn't see and hear -- concerned the Minnesota Wild assistants on Monday.

They went to Coach Jacques Lemaire and told him the team looked a little flat. Lemaire looked inside the dressing room about six minutes before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against the Mighty Ducks at the Xcel Energy Center.

Clearly, the guys weren't good in the room.

And they were even worse on the ice.

They couldn't score, gave up two short-handed goals and their leading scorer had only one shot on goal in the first two periods. Which all added up to the Mighty Ducks' 2-0 victory, giving them a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series.

"I felt we had maybe six, seven guys not at their best, and you know, to beat that team, we have to be at our best," Lemaire said. "Let's say to score one goal, we have to be at our best."

One goal would be a start.

"I said, 'I think they're thinking,' " Lemaire said. "They're worrying about something."

Could it be worrying about someone? A certain someone wearing No. 35?

Duck goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere has not given up a goal since the third period against the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 5. He was hardly tested on Monday, facing only 24 shots, most from long range.

But Lemaire is smart. He didn't dwell on Giguere and turn him into a huge talking point or make any joking remarks about the size of his pads.

When his players were standing in the dressing room afterward, repeatedly talking about needing not to get frustrated, Lemaire got his point across by assorted measures, using a blend of humor and directness.

He was asked about limiting the ice time of forward Marian Gaborik, who stayed on the bench for about the first 6 1/2 minutes of the third period.

The NHL's leading playoff scorer, who had two shots on goal in Game 2, has not had a point in his last three playoff games.

"No, he's not sick," Lemaire said. "Gabby started to play really hard, the way he should play, when it was 2-0. That's when he started to play as well as he can play."

That's when it was more than eight minutes into the third. As for the others, it seemed as though the Wild became reduced to making solo efforts.

"You saw the game. We did at different times there, and that is also experience we don't have," Lemaire said. "The worst thing you can do in the playoffs is try to do it by yourself. That is the worst thing. Then you don't have the team anymore. You're not working together, and one guy is so easy to stop."

He hadn't lost his sense of humor. The struggling power play, obviously, is a key area of concern and someone asked if there would be any changes.

"Who do you want?" Lemaire asked. "Just send me a little letter who you want and I'm going to try that."

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