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Ducks hurt by an old friend

March 16, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

It seemed like old times as Travis Moen racked up a game-high six hits, was plus-1 defensively and scored a significant goal Sunday at the Honda Center.

It was a typical performance for the rugged winger, who was so strong a presence throughout the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup run. During that remarkable spring he had three game-winners -- two during the finals -- and teamed with Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer to dominate at both ends of the ice.

He played that way again Sunday -- this time, against them.

Moen, traded to San Jose on March 4 after telling Ducks executives he would become a free agent, deflected a shot from Jamie McGinn past Jonas Hiller at 18:58 of the second period for the only goal in the Sharks' 1-0 victory over the fading Ducks.

It was a tight-checking game that had the air of a playoff contest, which is as close as the Ducks are likely to get to postseason play. They were passed Sunday by the St. Louis Blues and dropped to 12th in the West, three points out of eighth with 13 games left on their schedule.

"We've got to feel good about the effort," Coach Randy Carlyle said, "but not about the result. We need points."

They were stymied Sunday by Moen's fine effort and a 34-save performance by goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who recorded his sixth shutout of the season and second against the Ducks.

Moen had seen the Sharks' talent from the losing side twice this season. He likes his new perspective. A lot.

"There's definitely a lot of skill, a lot of skill up front," said Moen, traded with defenseman Kent Huskins for prospects Nick Bonino and Timo Pielmeier and a conditional fourth-round draft pick.

"They work extremely hard. The coaching staff really prepares you well for the other teams. We're definitely playing well now, and we just want to keep the ball rolling and get some more wins."

In a classy move, the Ducks saluted Moen on the video screen above center ice during the first TV timeout. The crowd of 17,511 gave him a standing ovation and Moen acknowledged the compliment with a wave.

"Looking back, there were a lot of fun times," he said.

That was then. This is an unhappy now for the Ducks.

The goal came out of nowhere. Ryan Getzlaf won a faceoff in the Ducks' end, but the puck skittered around the boards and to the left side. Chris Pronger went to play it and sensed a player on him, so he tried to bang it off the boards and ahead to Corey Perry. McGinn stepped in and tipped it away, throwing it at the net.

Moen deflected it amid a crowd of bodies and sticks. It went off Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney's shin pad, Hiller said, "then it hit my pad, the post and in. It's an unlucky goal, but it counts the same as a nice goal.

"If you don't score it's tough to win, even if that one didn't go in."

It was Moen's second goal in five games with the Sharks. They became the second team to reach 100 points -- they followed the Red Wings by hours but did it in two fewer games -- and regained the look of legitimate Cup contenders.

"He's added instant depth for us," center Joe Pavelski said of Moen. "He's stabilizing that third line for us right now with the injuries we have, and he's only going to add more to it as we get more and more guys back. He brings that experience, plays that role as good as anybody."

The Sharks seem to have shaken the midseason slump that had slowed them. On Sunday, less than 24 hours after they beat the Kings in a shootout at San Jose, they overcame their early lethargy and killed two penalties in the third period.

Moen played a key role in that.

"Travis has to be a very good checker. He has to be a very good penalty killer. He has to provide some physical energy for our hockey club, and that's real easy to sit down and ask him to do that because that's what he knows and what he does best," Coach Todd McLellan said.

"We're not bringing him in and asking him to run the power play or score 25 goals. He's fit very well in the locker room. His teammates like having him around. Coaches like having him around."

Moen's only regret is that his wife, Amy, had to stay behind in Orange County with their newborn son, but he said they will join him in a few weeks. Certainly in time for him to bring the Cup back to California -- a few hundred miles north of Anaheim this time.

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

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