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Ducks Learn They Don’t Measure Up

Times Staff Writer

The Mighty Ducks got a lesson in economics Friday night and this was not some fuzzy math coming out of Texas.

The Dallas Stars dipped into owner Tom Hicks’ bulging wallet and went on a buying spree. Judging by the Stars’ 4-0 pounding of the Ducks on Friday, they are better at managing money than Enron.

An announced crowd of 12,509 at the Arrowhead Pond came out to see if the Ducks, back from a five-game trip, could extend their recent success. They couldn’t. The Stars offered up a methodical beating and wore them down, getting goals from three of their free-agent signings.

Philippe Boucher, Ulf Dahlen, Scott Young and Derian Hatcher scored goals. Marty Turco stopped 31 shots for his third shutout of the season, tying him for the NHL lead.

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The Ducks had picked up points in their last eight games and were tied for second in the Pacific Division, behind Dallas. But the distance between the two teams seemed greater.

“We can play with this team, when we play like we’re capable of playing,” Duck center Matt Cullen said. “We didn’t put any pressure on them at all.”

This wasn’t an average loss for a team in its first game from the road. The Ducks did not come out flat but seemed to match the Stars’ energy. That ebbed as the game progressed and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere paid the price, often being left hung out to dry.

The Ducks had only 13 shots through the first 40 minutes.

“They played well, but we didn’t do much to counter it,” Cullen said. “We’re not going to win when we play like that, especially against a team like that.”

Turco made sure of that. He was considered a risky venture for the Stars when they allowed goalie Eddie Belfour to leave after last season. Turco has responded, achieving the third lowest goals-against average in the NHL before Friday’s game.

The Ducks didn’t challenge Turco much. His biggest save came when he smothered a point-blank try by rookie Alexei Smirnov, who had broken through the Stars’ defense early in the third period with the score 2-0.

“The big question mark coming in was his maturity and his maturity level is going every day,” Dallas Coach Dave Tippett said. “He wants to be the guy. He wants to be an elite goaltender in this league. But there is more to it than just saying that. He’s proving he can do it.”

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While saturating the free-agent market with American dollars doesn’t guarantee success -- see the New York Rangers as Exhibit A -- using cash wisely certain helps.

Boucher, who played the last seven-plus season with the Kings, signed a four-year, $9.3-million contract. Dahlen, who scored 23 goals for Washington last season, was a one-year, $1.5-million addition. Young, whose career hit the skids in St. Louis, came south for a two-year, $7-million deal.

Boucher, making his return to Southern California, gave the Stars a 1-0 lead in the first period Friday. He blasted a shot from the blue line that beat Giguere to the right.

Call it a warmup for tonight’s homecoming against the Kings at Staples Center.

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“I love being in L.A.,” Boucher said. “I love the guys and I had a good time here, even though there were some tough times. I went through all kinds of ups and downs [with injuries].”

Dahlen was jettisoned by the Capitals after last season. He had few offers and didn’t sign with the Stars until August 13th. He scored his ninth goal of the season by lurking on the power play, then diving and sweeping the puck in to give the Stars a 2-0 lead 17:02 into the second period.

Young put the game out of reach 5:33 into the third period. He circled from behind the net and paused before firing a shot beneath Giguere’s pad for a 3-0 lead.


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