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Ducks Get Caught Stargazing

Dallas delivers some payback, scoring two early goals in its 4-1 opening-night victory.

October 09, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

DALLAS — This was a three-minute opening statement that let the Mighty Ducks know just where they stood. The verdict may be more than six months off, but the Ducks learned about the trials and tribulations that lie ahead.

The Dallas Stars, defending Pacific Division champions and playoff fodder for the Ducks' run to the Stanley Cup finals last spring, had a score to settle in a 4-1 victory that was pretty much settled in the opening minutes.

The Ducks have designs on a division championship and another successful playoff run. The Stars showed them that it won't be easy.

"This is one game, but it was an opportunity," Duck Coach Mike Babcock said. "They're off to a good start. We're not."

The Ducks, in fact, stood still at the start, giving up two goals in the first three minutes. A year ago, they had the advantage of sneaking up on teams at the start. This season, teams have Duck games circled on the calendar.

"Guys wanted to get into this season right away," Dallas forward Bill Guerin said. "Their guys wanted to make an impact and so did we."

The Stars' impact was sudden.

Stu Barnes scored two goals by being where Ducks rarely were Wednesday -- the right place at the right time. Sergei Zubov had a goal and an assist. Guerin had, for him, what was a pleasant evening, starting with a fight and ending with a goal.

The 18,532 at the American Airlines Center got what they paid for, a little revenge for the Stars, who were ousted from the playoffs by the Ducks in the second round last season. "I think there was a big disappointment in how things came out last year," Barnes said. "We want it to be different this season."

That was made clear in the first two minutes, as the Stars went to work with their fists. Guerin and Duck defenseman Todd Simpson rumbled, followed by John Erskine and the Ducks' Garrett Burnett.

"One thing we have to do is be ready for the intensity from the start," Duck defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh said. "We were not ready tonight."

That's not to say the Ducks didn't create scoring chances. It was just the Stars were the ones cashing in.

Ruslan Salei went off for hooking. Zubov took his time, then whipped a shot through traffic and past goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere 2:27 into the game.

"Personally, I was annoyed with the way I showed up tonight," Giguere said.

Others can do some soul-searching as well. Barnes followed with a goal 30 seconds after Zubov, with Ozolinsh aiding and abetting.

Ozolinsh tried to control the puck in front of the Duck net instead of chipping it into the corner. Brenden Morrow hit Ozolinsh's elbow from behind and the puck slid right to Barnes, who flicked a wrist shot past Giguere.

"You say you want to be a quick team, you are going to be a hard-working team?" Babcock said. "What identity was there [tonight]?"

On a team that boasts Sergei Fedorov, Steve Rucchin, Petr Sykora and Vaclav Prospal, it was left to rookie Joffrey Lupul to make a highlight-reel play. He fired a no-look pass from behind the goal line and Rob Niedermayer chipped the puck into the net, cutting the Dallas lead to 2-1 at 17:06 of the first period.

"We get it to 2-1 and everything seems fine," Babcock said. "Then it looked to me like we didn't skate, we didn't trust each other in our own zone."

Zubov did the skating and Barnes the trusting, snuffing out Duck hopes in the second period. Zubov skated around Fedorov, then slipped a pass to Barnes who re-directed the puck into a gaping net for a 3-1 lead.

All that was left was for Guerin to beat Giguere midway through the third period.

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