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Unfamiliar Territory

Unlike their run in 2003, Ducks must start from behind after an overtime goal by McCarty lifts Flames in Game 1 as injured Giguere sits out.

April 22, 2006|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

CALGARY, Canada — Resiliency has been the word for the Mighty Ducks this season but it took on a whole new meaning Friday night as they began their Western Conference first-round series against the Calgary Flames.

After losing their franchise goaltender and one-time playoff hero before they left their dressing room for Game 1, it will take exactly that to climb their way back.

Darren McCarty, who knows a thing about playoff dramatics, helped the Flames get the jump as his goal at 9 minutes 45 seconds of overtime gave them a 2-1 victory and set the stage for what may be a long series between the last two conference champions.

The concern extended past the ice for the Ducks as they played without Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was scratched right before the game because of an apparent leg injury.

As they played on without him, the Ducks got a strong effort on short notice from backup Ilya Bryzgalov and a game-tying goal from Jeff Friesen in the third period. They also dominated the last two periods of regulation but were often rebuffed by Calgary's own stopper, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

Those are the things they will carry with them into Game 2 Sunday night.

"I'm happy with how we played," forward Teemu Selanne said. "It made me sick when somebody asked a question if we can compete against these guys. I think we showed it.

"Without their goalie, this game would be over after the second period."

Bryzgalov showed the experience he gained in his first full season in the NHL. Looking confident in the net, he made 28 saves and kept the Ducks in the game early.

But the 25-year-old was powerless to stop the grinding McCarty, who came to Calgary as a free agent after reaching cult hero status in Detroit during his 11 seasons there. It was with the Red Wings where he scored the game-winning goal against Philadelphia that clinched their 1997 Stanley Cup.

The hard-nosed forward knocked Duck defenseman Ruslan Salei off the puck with a strong forecheck to force a turnover in the Duck zone. McCarty then worked his way back in front of the net to receive a pass from Kristian Huselius and one-timed a shot by Bryzgalov.

"I didn't see him because I had to pay attention to Huselius," Bryzgalov said. "He made a quick pass and McCarty had a good shot. It was bang-bang."

A key part of the Ducks' franchise-defining playoff run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2003 was their ability to capture the first game in every series except the one they lost to the New Jersey Devils. In that postseason, the Ducks also won all seven of their overtime games.

They'll have to rally this time, and it may be without Giguere. The Ducks would say only that he has a "lower-body injury," and the goaltender said it wasn't related to groin and hamstring problems he had early in the regular season.

"It's day to day," General Manager Brian Burke said. "We don't think it's serious."

Giguere said he tweaked the injury during practice earlier this week but went through Thursday's session and participated in the morning skate Friday. It became clear that he wasn't right when he didn't join the team on the ice for the warmup before the game.

"We were still hoping for today," he said. "I knew it didn't look good [Thursday] after practice. It was actually much better [Friday], but it was not good enough for the game."

Giguere sat out nine games earlier this season because of groin and hamstring problems. After an April 13 game at Edmonton, he received treatment on his right leg. At the time, he said it was fine but intimated that the current injury may be related.

"Every once in a while it flares up on me," said Giguere, who hopes to play Sunday. "It's nothing major. You need to be 100% to goaltend in a game that important."

With Giguere out, the Ducks' fortunes suddenly rested on Bryzgalov, who played in two games during the last week of the regular season but had made only one start since March 19.

Early on, he was up to the task as he stopped a point-blank chance by Byron Ritchie and made key stops against Roman Hamrlik and Huselius. Tony Amonte, however, gave the Flames a 1-0 lead in the second.

Friesen answered at 5:17 of the third with a deflection off a shot by Rob Niedermayer.

Joffrey Lupul nearly won it in overtime when he snapped a wrist shot off the crossbar.

"It sounded like it went in," Selanne said. "I think we had way more chances than them. We just have to keep pushing."

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