Friday, May 2, 2003

NHL: Ducks try to eliminate Stars

By Stephen Hawkins
The Associated Press

DALLAS - Even after leading Anaheim to the biggest improvement in the NHL this season, Mike Babcock isn't one of three finalists for the trophy that goes to the league's top coach.

More impressive than the Mighty Ducks' 26-point increase during the regular season is their postseason run that has them on the verge of eliminating the top-seeded Dallas Stars after a first-round sweep of defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit.

But the postseason isn't taken into consideration for the Jack Adams Trophy. If it was, Babcock would be the leading candidate.

The award snub doesn't bother Babcock. There's still hockey's most coveted trophy to pursue: the Stanley Cup.

"We're trying to do something here in the playoffs, and those awards are for the regular season. I put no stock in that," Babcock said.

Anaheim has a 3-1 series lead and the chance Saturday to wrap up the Western Conference semifinals in Game 5 at Dallas, where the Mighty Ducks won the first two games to take control before splitting two games at home.

"The fourth win is always the toughest one to get," Anaheim's Steve Thomas said. "It's going to be in their building and their backs are against the wall now, so it's going to be a pretty intense game. But we'll be ready for it."

Dallas has faced 3-1 playoff series deficits nine other times. The Stars, who managed only a 2-1 win in Game 3 at Anaheim, have never come back.

"This is as desperate as it gets," Stars forward Brenden Morrow said. "For everything we did good this season, all the sweat and hard work to get in first, this would be an awful waste."

The Stars have managed just seven goals in 18 periods against goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. That includes the five-overtime series opener and the Game 2 overtime win.

"They're riding on his shoulders right now," Stars center Mike Modano said. "To have a player that hot and that streaky, you can't really explain it unless you go through it yourself. And right now, he's probably playing the best hockey of his life."

Giguere had 28 saves Wednesday night in his first career postseason shutout, a 1-0 victory.

Modano thought he had a go-ahead goal on a power play early in the third period. The Stars' career scoring leader already had his stick raised in celebration, then realized Giguere had made an incredible save by sliding across the crease and stopping the puck with his skate.

"It looked spectacular because I made a mistake," Giguere said. "I went down a little bit early on Morrow. He made the pass across and I kind of got lucky."

Giguere's overall performance so far in the playoffs has been anything but lucky. He's been spectacular.

Giguere is 7-1 - all one-goal games - with a 1.27 goals-against average that is the best in the playoffs, as is his .960 save percentage while stopping 312 of 325 shots.

Minnesota and Vancouver both overcame 3-1 deficits to win their first-round Western Conference series. But they are among only 35 teams that have accomplished that feat since 1942.

"We've got a couple days to get our thoughts together and get some rest and really push hard for Saturday," Modano said. "It's not impossible. It's going to be grinding and tough, but we need to have our whole lineup playing. Anything short of that and we'll be done."

The Ducks know this series isn't over yet. Anaheim won just one of five regular-season games against Dallas.

"We know they are not going to go away, we're going to have to put them away," Babcock said.

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