Sunday, April 27, 2003

NHL: Ducks take 2-0 lead on Stars

The Associated Press

DALLAS - Once the Anaheim Mighty Ducks got a lucky bounce that led to another overtime, they extended their postseason perfection. And they put the top-seeded Dallas Stars in a deep hole in the Western Conference semifinals.

Rob Niedermayer scored off a Dallas skate with just 1:09 left in regulation, and then Mike Leclerc gathered a loose puck and scored on a left-handed wrister 1:44 into overtime as Anaheim beat the Stars 3-2 on Saturday, taking a 2-0 series lead.

"I don't know what it is about this group," Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said. "We just hang around and hang around and we don't go away. You give yourself a chance."

This time, Anaheim needed just a couple of minutes, instead of a couple of hours, in overtime to get the game-winner.

Game 2 began just 371/2 hours after the five-overtime series opener, the fourth-longest in NHL history at 140 minutes and 48 seconds, that the Ducks won 4-3 on Petr Sykora's goal.

The Mighty Ducks are undefeated in six playoffs games, all by one goal. They swept defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit, including a three-overtime game and the first-round series clincher in an extra period.

"It's been quite a roll. I don't think anybody would have predicted it," Niedermayer said. "At the same time, things could be very different with a different bounce here and a different bounce there."

The series switches to Anaheim for the next two games, giving the surprising Ducks - the Western Conference's seventh-seeded team - a chance to close another series without returning to Dallas next weekend. Game 3 is Monday night.

Dallas seemed on the way to getting even in the series, until Niedermayer's pass across the crease ricocheted off Stars forward Stu Barnes' skate in front of the net. Marty Turco, who had 24 saves, never had a chance to stop it.

Early in overtime, Brenden Morrow was unable to control the puck off the boards. Leclerc got it on his stick and quickly shot it toward the net and past Turco for the winner.

"I had to get to the puck first because it was pretty far away," Leclerc said. "I reached out for it, and you kind of know where the net is. I just wanted to go high so I threw it at the net, and it went in."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere had another impressive game with 29 saves, including some incredible stops in the third period that kept the Ducks within a goal - and made Niedermayer's goal an overtime-forcer.

Rob DiMaio's blast with about 12 minutes left bounded off Giguere's right shoulder. Giguere made a pad save to prevent Modano's shot off an odd-man rush with less than eight minutes left, then hung on when Kirk Muller tried to jam in a shot and ended up in a pile on top of the goalie.

"It's frustrating. Sometimes as good as you want to be, the game doesn't let you be good," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "They get a goal off a skate. That's the way it goes."

Giguere had stopped 60 shots in Game 1 after limiting Detroit to six goals in the first-round series.

Mike Modano scored on a long blast in the second period and also assisted on Morrow's tying power-play goal with 1.2 seconds left in the first for the Stars. Those goals came in a span of five shots.

"I thought we did enough to win, but bad bounces and bad calls have a snowball effect," Modano said. "I thought we outchanced them and outplayed them in every aspect of the game, but we haven't been lucky."

Modano's 50th career playoff goal put the Stars ahead 2-1 in the second. Giguere couldn't see the puck since he was screened by Stars forward Jason Arnott, who pulled his stick out of the way just before the puck whizzed by Giguere.

Giguere made the initial stop on Sergei Zubov's shot from the top of the right circle at the end of the first, but Modano got a stick on the puck and Morrow punched it into an empty gap as the clock ran out.

As Giguere and several of his teammates left the ice for the locker room, thinking the period was over, the play was reviewed by officials. The goal counted and 1.2 seconds was put back on the clock. Backup goalie Martin Gerber quickly scampered off the bench into the net for the period-ending faceoff.

Until the last two goals, Turco had allowed only Adam Oates' goal when Anaheim had a two-man advantage in the first. That was the Ducks' first power-play goal of the postseason.

The Mighty Ducks were 0-for-18 on postseason power-play chances until Oates worked his way from the side of the net and knocked a shot past Turco, who got a piece of the puck but not enough to keep it out.

That came with 9:43 left in the first on Anaheim's second five-one-three, and during a continuous stretch of almost four minutes when the Ducks had at least a man advantage.

Devils 3, Lightning 2, OT

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Jamie Langenbrunner scored 2:09 into overtime - his second straight game-winner, as New Jersey beat Tampa Bay to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

Langenbrunner, who has seven goals in seven games this postseason, took a shot from the right circle that goalie Nikolai Khabibulin fumbled in front. Langenbrunner rushed in for the rebound, made a move around Khabibulin, and slid the puck in.

Grant Marshall and Brian Rafalski also scored for New Jersey. Martin St. Louis and Chris Dingman scored for Tampa Bay.

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