Wild finally score, but Ducks still win
Minnesota loses 2-1, exits from from NHL playoffs
By Ken Peters
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Not so long after the Angels won their first World Series, the Mighty Ducks are in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time.
Anaheim's becoming a magic kingdom of sports.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere finally gave up a goal, but teammate Adam Oates scored twice Friday night as the Ducks completed a sweep of Minnesota with a 2-1 victory.
"It's a huge accomplishment to be in the Stanley Cup finals, and the fact that we had to beat great teams to get here makes it even sweeter," the Ducks' Steve Rucchin said.
Seventh-seeded Anaheim began the playoffs by sweeping defending champion Detroit, then eliminated top-seeded Dallas 4-2 in the second round before beating the Wild in four games.
The Ducks' Paul Kariya showed a bit of superstition when he was presented the Western Conference champions trophy; he didn't touch it.
"That's not the trophy we're after," he said. "It's a great feeling taking another step, but there's one more to go."
Giguere, who celebrated his 26th birthday by turning away 24 Minnesota shots, finished the series with 122 saves while facing 123 shots.
The Wild's lone goal, scored by Andrew Brunette on a deflection during a power play 4:37 into the game, was the fewest ever in a best-of-seven series. Minnesota came in with a playoff-high 42 goals.
Two teams -- Boston in 1935 and Montreal in 1952 -- were held to two goals in a series.
"To give up one goal in a series is unbelievable," Anaheim rookie coach Mike Babcock said.
Giguere's scoreless streak ended at 217 minutes, 54 seconds -- the fifth longest playoff string in NHL history and the longest since Montreal's Gerry McNeil went 218:42 in 1951.
The Anaheim goalie had not allowed a goal since the third period of Anaheim's final victory over Dallas in the second round.
"I knew at some point, there was going to be a goal some way, somehow," he said. "It had become kind of a distraction, with people asking about it. I feel the team did an unbelievable job playing in front of me. They made my job so much easier."
The Ducks play the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between New Jersey and Ottawa. New Jersey leads the series 2-1.
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire complimented the Ducks, and his own team as well. The Wild, a third-year team, came back from 3-1 deficits to beat Colorado and Vancouver in the first two rounds.
"We had a great season, and these guys battled," Lemaire said. "We went in the playoffs and we were not supposed to win one game. I look at this team as guys that didn't have a lot of experience and they lived through a lot in these playoffs and learned a lot."
The Wild's Cliff Ronning said, "Getting to the final four in three years speaks well of this organization."
Oates, 40, was in perfect position for both his goals.
Signed by Anaheim as a free agent last July, he broke a 1-1 tie when he scored on a power play at 9:31 of the second period.
Mike Leclerc shot from the right circle, Rob Niedermayer got a stick on it, and the puck came through to Oates, who was parked just to the left of the crease. He had only to poke it into the net because goalie Manny Fernandez was guarding the right post.
Oates' first goal, four minutes after Minnesota scored, came on a power play after Leclerc's shot bounced off Minnesota defenseman Brad Bombardir and dropped in the slot. Oates was there to wrist it past Fernandez.
Oates has been in the Stanley Cup before, with Washington in 1998, but the Capitals lost to Detroit.
"It's obviously a great feeling to be going back. At the beginning of the year, I would not have thought we would be here," he said.
The Ducks are trying to follow in the footsteps of the Angels, who also were long shots in the postseason. Both the Ducks and Angels are owned by the Walt Disney Co., although the baseball team is being sold to Arizona businessman Arturo Moreno, and the hockey team is up for sale.
The Ducks and Angels play just up the street from Disneyland and the "Magic Kingdom."