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Ducks Show Sharks They Can Fly

Anaheim chalks up its first victory, 2-0. Sykora and Ozolinsh score, and McDonald has two assists. Gerber has 34 saves.

October 22, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

SAN JOSE — This day was bound to come. There was no avoiding it.

Death, taxes and a Mighty Duck victory at some point during the season. All sure-bets in life, like Petr Sykora scoring a goal.

"Maybe if I had gone out and scored in the first five games, we would have had a better chance to win," Sykora said. "Tonight, it did happen."

It had to eventually. Sykora had to score someday. The Ducks couldn't lose every game.

They proved that Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks in front of an announced 14,362 at the HP Pavilion, ending the Ducks' five-game losing streak.

"Maybe this is a great place to start," Coach Mike Babcock said.

The Ducks got a top-line performance from their top line. Sykora scored, Andy McDonald had two assists and Sergei Fedorov had one when he set up defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh's goal with a $40-million-type play.

That was enough for goaltender Martin Gerber, who saw 34 shots, left a few juicy rebounds for his defense to clear early, and came away with a shutout. This certainly felt better than blowing the two-goal lead in an overtime to Boston on Sunday.

"We were very close in that last one and very disappointed," Fedorov said. "That was a light at the end of the tunnel because we should have won. We came out tonight and played 60 minutes and played as solid as we can."

Fedorov got himself rolling late in the first period and worked himself into a highlight moment in the first period.

The puck was dumped innocently into the Shark zone. Defenseman Tom Preissing went to retrieve, Fedorov burst in, jumped past the rookie and took the puck.

He then centered while falling to a charging Ozolinsh, who buried a shot for a 1-0 lead 14:32 into the game.

"I saw Ozzie's big skates, he wears those size 12," Fedorov said. "As I was falling, I slide the puck. I knew my job was done."

Said Ozolinsh: "You always got to be ready when Sergei is on the ice."

Although Fedorov has yet to score, it was his third assist in two games.

Sykora's goal-less streak was worrisome to the Ducks. A year ago, he led the team with 34 goals but had yet to put a puck in the net other than in practice. That was not for lack of chances, but as his streak continued, his opportunities decreased.

A slow start by Sykora was not unprecedented.

He scored only seven goals in the Ducks' first 27 games last season. But combined with the losing streak, this was stressful.

"When you get frustrated like this it takes away from your game," Sykora said. "When things are going well, the puck is going in, everything seems so easy. Right now I'm on the opposite side.

"When I get my chances, I just have to relax and be patient. I can't go out there and have it in my mind that I have to score."

Still, the thought occurred to him during the first period Tuesday, and Sykora was relaxed and patient.

McDonald came from behind the net and sent a slick centering pass across the crease. Sykora, crashing from the outside, was there to meet it near the left post and chip a shot past goalie Evgeni Nabokov for a 2-0 Duck lead at 16:20.

"My measure of Pete is how hard he competes and how well he skates," Babcock said. "His measure is if he scores or not."

Gerber did the rest. He battled to make saves early but stopped 11 shots in the third period when the Sharks were pressing.

"This was a long time coming," Sykora said. "Maybe this will get us rolling."

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