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Zero Resistance

Devils take a 2-0 advantage over the Ducks with essentially a repeat performance

May 30, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The time had come, the man from Minsk said, for the Mighty Ducks to talk of simple things.

"We need to do everything better," Duck defenseman Ruslan Salei said Thursday night. "But a goal would be nice."

That would be a good starting point.

The Ducks had a lot of information to process, once again, after another 3-0 loss that gave the New Jersey Devils a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals. Another painful night near the New Jersey swamps was accented by chants of "over-rated" from the 19,040 at the Continental Airlines Arena.

Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, once again, was the second-best goalie in the arena, with the Devils' Martin Brodeur getting his 19th career playoff shutout.

The Ducks, once again, put only 16 shots on goal.

Team captain Paul Kariya, once again, was bottled and bonded, not getting a shot.

Petr Sykora, once again, seemed the lesser end of last summer's big trade between the Ducks and Devils, with New Jersey's Oleg Tverdovsky getting two assists and Jeff Friesen one goal.

Once again, the Ducks were left needing a major overhaul.

"We have to do things better," Duck center Adam Oates said. "I'm not sure how. We played a little better than the first game, but we still have a long way to go."

In a short amount of time.

The Ducks go from a must-win game Thursday to an absolutely-gotta-have this one Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond.

Of the 40 teams that have fallen behind, 2-0, in the finals, only three have rallied to win the Cup, the last time being Montreal in 1971. Add to that the fact that the Devils have won eight consecutive playoffs series when they won the first two games.

Turning things around will be more difficult than trying to put a good spin on Thursday's loss. The Ducks, who had a 10-day layoff before the series began, have not scored a goal in nearly two weeks, or 150 minutes 29 seconds of actual hockey time.

They are the first team to suffer successive shutouts to open the Cup finals since Detroit in 1945.

Through the first three rounds against Detroit, Dallas and Minnesota, the offense was a three-line production for the Ducks, who at one point had 10 consecutive goals scored by 10 players.

Their ineffectiveness has been spread out as well.

Kariya, the Ducks' $10-million man, has been shut down. Sykora, whose 34 goals led the team during the regular season, has been frustrated in his homecoming, one time whiffing on a shot in the slot Thursday. They had plenty of company in the underachieving category.

"Every time we got the puck on our stick we treated it like a hand grenade," Duck winger Steve Thomas said. "There is no doubt we have played differently. The intensity is not anywhere near what it has been in the other series. We're in the Stanley Cup finals, I don't understand that."

The Devils are one reason, as they have cranked up the intensity, claiming the neutral zone as personal property.

"When they get the lead, they just pile things up in the neutral zone," Duck defenseman Keith Carney said. "We can't generate a lot."

Tverdovsky generated all the Devils needed to earn ex-Duck of the night honors -- although Friesen made a late bid with a third-period goal. But Tverdovsky, with two off-the-mark shots, put the Devils ahead.

The Red Wings, Stars and Wild talked about getting traffic in front of Giguere. The Devils had a novel concept. They actually did get traffic in front of the net.

On a second-period power play, Tverdovsky fired a shot from the point that went off the skate of Duck defenseman Kurt Sauer. The ricochet went to Patrik Elias' stick like metal to a magnet. He had an open right side of the net and calmly flicked the puck in for a 1-0 lead 4:42 into the second period.

"[Tverdovsky's shot] didn't have a chance of going in," Sauer said. "It bounced right. I believe in hockey gods. You work hard and they are going to reward you with the bounces. The Devils worked harder than us."

And they were rewarded with another kind deflection.

Tverdovsky again fired wildly from the blue line, only this time the puck went off Scott Gomez's knee and past Giguere for a 2-0 lead 12:11 into the second period.

"That's how goals are scored in this league," Tverdovsky said. "There are no offensive plays. All goals are hard work and lucky bounces."

Those bounces doubled the playoff assist total for Tverdovsky, who was traded with Friesen to the Devils in a seven-player deal that sent Sykora to Anaheim. Friesen, who had two goals in the opener, added to the lopsided head-to-head matchup thus far with a nifty back-hander for a 3-0 lead 4:22 into the third period.

"I think a lot of that is overrated," Friesen said when asked about playing against his former team. "Everything is businesslike here. Certainly, you look at Marty Brodeur, you got a great goalie that he can win with a lot of teams. He gives you so much confidence."

With little effort Thursday.

Brodeur moved one closer to Patrick Roy's playoff shutout record of 23 with his record-tying sixth shutout this spring. He hardly broke a sweat in getting there. The Ducks had only two shots in the second period.

But Brodeur had moments where he showed why he is considered one of the best ever.

In the third period, Sandis Ozolinsh ripped a shot from the blue line. Brodeur tossed his stick to the right, then dived to his left, snagging the puck in his glove.

"I really don't know how good he was, because we didn't test him," Salei said. "To play like that two games is not acceptable."

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