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Ducks Flaunt Potential

For a day, Anaheim looks like a playoff team with a 6-3 victory over the Kings at the Pond.

March 01, 2004|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

This is the type of game that frustrates the Mighty Ducks.

They played with passion from the start. They showed resiliency, blowing a two-goal lead but refused to collapse. They demonstrated a killer instinct in an exceptional third period.

All came as a complete package in a 6-3 victory over the Kings on Sunday in front of 17,174 at the Arrowhead Pond.

It raised the question: Why not every game?

"That is what has been lacking this year," Duck goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "We have been an up-and-down team this season. But we can't worry about the past. We just got to look to the future."

The immediate future seems clear for both teams. The Kings are scrapping for a postseason spot. The Ducks have only a postscript and postmortem left. But the different directions the teams were traveling was difficult to detect in Sunday's game.

The Ducks flexed their enormous potential, getting production from high-end players en masse.

Sergei Fedorov scored two goals, including one that broke a 3-3 tie 2 minutes 48 seconds into the third period. Vaclav Prospal had a goal and two assists and Steve Rucchin had a goal and one assist. Fedorov, Prospal and Rucchin had been without goals in the last five games. Petr Sykora even chipped in with an assist, his second point in the last seven games.

Yet, the victory did little to alter the Ducks' current also-ran status and Coach Mike Babcock bristled afterward when asked about his team's inability to make more than cameo appearances, especially early in the season.

"We just think we need to be more consistent," Babcock said.

The Kings got a woeful third-period performance for a team in the middle of the playoff race. They were perched for a big come-from-behind win after second-period goals by Joe Corvo and Jozef Stumpel erased a 3-1 Duck lead.

But the Ducks owned the third period, with three goals.

"Guys we're counting on showed up today," Rucchin said.

Fedorov slipped from behind the King net to intercept Brad Norton's pass in the slot, then whipped a shot past goalie Cristobal Huet to give the Ducks a 4-3 lead.

Prospal and Rucchin did the follow-up work with goals that sent Huet to the bench and left King Coach Andy Murray a little cranky.

"The game's 3-3 in the third period, we give them a couple goals," Murray said. "If that was the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Nashville Predators, you put those kinds of pucks on their stick, they're going to hurt you. To me, it had nothing to do with the Ducks. It had everything to do with ourselves.

"I'm not disappointed, I'm a little mad here. Every point is precious. We didn't play smart and they certainly took advantage."

Which, for the Ducks, was seeing how the other half lives. They have suffered from inertia and mistakes too often this season, including losing three of four games to the Kings, one in overtime, before Sunday.

"We've definitely given up a lot of points to them, but we've given up a lot of points to other teams too," Rucchin said.

Giguere made sure there was to be no giving away anything Sunday.

The Kings' Sean Avery, the NHL leader in penalty minutes, crashed the net two minutes into the game. Giguere responded by charging from the crease and shoving Avery.

"The guy is a disrupter out there and you have to stand up to them," Giguere said. "I wasn't going to fight him, but I wanted to make sure he didn't hit me again."

It sent the right message to his teammates, who had meandered through a series of listless moments in a 2-1 loss to the Kings on Saturday.

"No question about it," Babcock said. "He was saying, 'Let's play here.' "

The Ducks took the hint.

Fedorov rocketed a shot past Huet for a power-play goal and a 1-0 lead 6:35 into the game. Cam Severson scored on a breakaway, and Petr Schastlivy swept in a rebound, key moments in an energetic first period that ended with the Ducks leading, 3-1.

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