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Anaheim 5, Columbus 0
Posted: Tuesday March 25, 2003 02:33 AM
Columbus Blue Jackets
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Anaheim Mighty Ducks
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ANAHEIM, California (Ticker) -- The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim will play a little longer than they usually do this spring.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 29 saves and Rob Niedermayer scored twice as the Ducks clinched a playoff berth with a 5-0 blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Anaheim actually secured the third postseason spot in team history - and first since 1999 - earlier in the evening when Phoenix lost at Calgary. The Ducks finished last in the Pacific Division each of the last three seasons.

"Our goal is to work on our foundation, get things tightened up and go after that big silver thing," he said. "It's a great opportunity and we're glad to have it."

"I'm excited, but we have a lot of work ahead of us," Ducks captain Paul Kariya added. "We've reached one goal, but we've got a bigger goal ahead of us."

Giguere, a major reason why Anaheim is back in playoffs, stopped 18 shots in the first two periods and 11 over the final 20 minutes en route to his league-leading eighth shutout of the season and 16th of his career.

"After the first month and half, the team really came together," Giguere said. "We got our confidence. With confidence, this could really be a dangerous team. What we can't do the rest of the way is slack off. When you slack off, there is more chance of an injury. We have to keep momentum into the playoffs. This is just the start for us. We deserve to be here."

Acquired from Calgary at the trade deadline, Niedermayer scored at 12:07 of the second period, giving the Ducks a 3-0 lead. He completed his second multi-goal game of the season with just over four minutes left in the third.

Steve Thomas, who was obtained from Chicago at the trade deadline, also scored for Anaheim, which moved one point ahead of Minnesota into sixth place in the Western Conference.

Marc Denis allowed four goals on 16 shots before being pulled after two periods for Columbus, which matched a team record with its eighth straight road loss. The Blue Jackets rarely tested Giguere.

"It was the easiest shutout of his career, that's all I can say," Blue Jackets left wing Geoff Sanderson said.

Columbus captin Ray Whitney thinks the Ducks should not be taken lightly in the postseason.

"They've got some depth, a lot of depth and a great goaltender," he said. "They could surprise some teams. You always hear about the top four of Detroit, Dallas, Colorado and Vancouver, but anybody that plays Anaheim can't be looking to the next round early."

Needing a win or Phoenix loss to clinch a playoff berth, the Ducks came out flying and needed just 22 seconds to break on top.

Working in the slot, Mike Leclerc took a pass from Kariya and beat Denis with a wrist shot for his ninth goal.

Just four seconds after defenseman Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre was penalized for boarding, Petr Sykora doubled Anaheim's lead at 7:09 of the second period.

Adam Oates won a faceoff and got the puck to Sykora in the high slot, where he beat Denis with a wrist shot for his 32nd goal. It was Oates' 1,399th career point, moving him past Jari Kurri into 15th place on the all-time list.

Nidermayer came up with the prettiest goal of the night at 12:55 of the second. He took a pass from defenseman Keith Carney at the bottom of the right circle and slid a backhander by Denis for his ninth goal.

"It's a new team. I was kind of pressing a little bit," said Niedermayer, who had one assist in his first seven games with the Ducks. "You've got to think that this is just the start of it. You play your game and you never know what's going to happen."

Thomas, who has been rejuvenated since coming over from the Blackhawks, extended the lead to 4-0 with five minutes left in the second. Thomas has five goals in eight games with Ducks after producing just four in 69 games for Chicago.

Niedermayer capped the scoring on the power play with 3:07 left in the contest. His other multi-goal game came against the Ducks on February 4.

Anaheim was 2-for-6 on the power play while Columbus had just two chances with the extra attacker.