New Jersey Bedeviled by Mighty Ducks, 6-1 : Hockey: Stanley Cup champions are fourth in a row to be baffled by Anaheim’s sudden change of fortune.
How do you explain the Mighty Ducks?
Jacques Lemaire, coach of the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, was left to ponder that Sunday after his team became the fourth in a row to be dismantled by the Ducks, who were 2-8 little more than a week ago.
With a 6-1 victory over New Jersey in front of 17,174 at The Pond of Anaheim, the Ducks have dispatched the last two Stanley Cup champions in succession, mowing down New Jersey, the N.Y. Rangers, St. Louis and Calgary by a combined score of 23-7.
“This could definitely be our finest hour,” said left wing Garry Valk, who sprinted out on a shorthanded breakaway to give the Ducks a 3-1 lead late in the second after blocking a point shot against the Devils’ power play.
“I think we love playing at home this year,” said Valk, whose team is 5-2 in Anaheim. “It’s unbelievable. Once a team gets hot and feels good in a certain building, it carries over.”
The five-game winning streak at home is a franchise record, and the Ducks have won four in a row overall for the first time in almost two years, tying the record they set on a four-game swing through Canada Nov. 19-24, 1993.
“I know they have some pretty good hockey players on the other side, but this is not Mario Lemieux,” said a frustrated Lemaire after the game. “What they do is they play well as a team. They play like we did last year.”
Lemaire said the Devils looked “tired” after beating the Kings the night before. The Ducks took full advantage, beating New Jersey on outnumbered rushes all night and lighting up the scoreboard against one of the best defensive teams in the NHL.
“We were patient and confident, above all,” Duck Coach Ron Wilson said.
Paul Kariya showed the form that is leaving much of the NHL in his wake, tying the score, 1-1, at 6:43 of the second with his 11th goal of the season when he looked off Ken Daneyko on a two on one and then flicked a shot past Martin Brodeur.
Kariya also had two assists, giving him his third three-point game of the season, and 18 points in 14 games.
Midway through the second period, Kariya sent Shaun Van Allen and Patrik Carnback out on a two on one with a nifty pass, and Van Allen kept the puck for what proved to be the game-winner. Van Allen’s goal did in Brodeur, who was pulled for Chris Terreri as Lemaire made a futile attempt to change the momentum.
Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, right wing Mike Sillinger and rookie center Chad Kilger scored in the third, with Tverdovsky getting his first goal of the season on a hard slap shot when Kariya fed him on a three-on-two break.
“There might have been 20 or 21 guys in the locker room not playing to their ability, including myself, but we stuck together,” goalie Guy Hebert said.
“For a while, you didn’t know if the guy next to you was going to be there tomorrow or if the guys on the coaching staff were going to be here tomorrow. If we kept losing, you felt something was going to happen.”
But Hebert and Valk said management’s decision to offer Wilson an extension eased the tension.
“I tell you what, we’re real excited,” Valk said. “We thought we played well early in the season, but we struggled and you start doubting yourselves. The organization stuck with Ron and said they’d re-do his contract and he stuck with all of us. The patience of the organization is paying off.”