SI.com 2003 NHL Playoffs 2003 NHL Playoffs


Stuck in neutral

Sluggish second period dooms Mighty Ducks again

Posted: Thursday May 29, 2003 11:00 PM
Updated: Friday May 30, 2003 2:17 AM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- There is something about the second period that is wrecking the Anaheim Mighty Ducks' first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals.

They have managed to stay even for the first 20 minutes, but soon after that it all goes bad for the Western Conference champions.

"Why the second period? I have no idea," center Adam Oates said after the Game 2 loss.

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If they are going to make their stay in the finals a lengthy one, the Mighty Ducks better figure out why as soon as they get back to California on Friday. Anaheim was held to just 16 shots for the second straight game, and was beaten 3-0 again Thursday night by Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

The Mighty Ducks gave up two goals in the middle period and only mustered two shots of their own.

"We played very well defensively against the other teams and frustrated the other teams, and now New Jersey is doing it to us," said captain Paul Kariya, who has just one shot in the series -- in Game 1.

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday night in Anaheim.

The last time a team was shut out in the first two games of the finals was in 1945 when Toronto's Frank McCool did it to Detroit.

The Ducks were outshot 15-4 in the middle period of Game 1 and were behind 1-0 heading into the third. Anaheim's defense improved in this one, limiting the Devils to six shots. Still, New Jersey scored on two of them.

"We were better in the first period," Kariya said, "better certainly than the first game. Second period, they got a power-play goal. We just didn't manage the puck well and play with our heads. We're just making poor plays out there."

The only Ducks' shots that got through to Brodeur in the second period Thursday came off the sticks of Rob Niedermayer and Steve Rucchin.

"They're playing New Jersey hockey, you've got to give them some credit," Oates said. "It's nothing we didn't expect. We know they're a very good a defensive team, and obviously Marty's good back there."

Anaheim didn't have any shots until 10:47 elapsed in the second. The Ducks were already behind 1-0 when Niedermayer took a drive from the left side that wasn't much of a challenge for Brodeur.

"We haven't tested him at all," forward Steve Thomas said. "We've made it easy on him."

With 2:07 left in the period and the deficit 2-0, Rucchin got inside and cut toward the goal with speed. He pushed a shot into Brodeur as he crashed the net while being pursued by defenseman Scott Stevens. The puck trickled through Brodeur and rested short of the line as play stopped.

Nearly four minutes into the third period, coach Mike Babcock switched his lines to put offensive weapons Kariya, Oates and Petr Sykora together. That combination usually is only formed at home when the Mighty Ducks can have the last line change.

Something had to change because of the drought by Kariya, who led the Ducks with 81 regular-season points. Sykora had two shots in the opener, and Oates had none. Neither had a shot in Game 2.

But it was the Devils who generated some offense less than 30 seconds after the line reconfiguration, as Jeff Friesen beat unscreened goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to put the game even further out of reach for the punchless Ducks.

"We have to play more desperate as a team," Oates said. "The last couple of games we haven't played as desperate as we have in the past."

Giguere smashed his stick in two and tossed it aside, rendering it as ineffective as those in the hands of his teammates.

"It's disappointing not to be able to generate anything offensively," Kariya said.

 
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