Ducks Match the Stars, 1-1

Times Staff Writer

This was the type of gritty effort that earns a quality team a point.

Oh, and the Mighty Ducks got a point too.

The Dallas Stars came west with the intent of widening the gap -- as Coach Dave Tippett put it -- in the Pacific Division. A 1-1 tie with the Ducks in front of an announced 15,393 Sunday at the Arrowhead Pond did that, giving the Stars five points over a three-games-in-four-nights swing through San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The Stars lead the division by 15 points, a Grand Canyon-like gap.

Second place at the moment belongs to the Ducks, although that's hardly a merit badge considering it is only good enough for ninth place in the Western Conference. But the Ducks are feeling better about their situation, having ended a season-high five-game losing streak. Before that tumble, the Ducks were only six points behind the Stars.

"We'll take it," Andy McDonald said. "We needed this to get back on track. We didn't get the win, but we played pretty solid. When you start losing, it's hard to get out of it. We are on the way back up."

Well, it's more like hovering. Even for that the Ducks can thank goalie Martin Gerber. He stopped 26 of 27 shots in starting his second game in place of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who is out because of a sore neck.

Gerber gave up one goal to Philadelphia Friday and gave up one Sunday, on a redirection by Pierre Turgeon that tied the score, 1-1, 7:04 into the second period. What Gerber has to show for his work is a tie and a loss.

Gerber played only 40 minutes in 11 games before Friday. Yet, he has stopped 50 of 52 shots in the last two games.

"When Gerbs isn't playing, he starts to question himself and get down on himself," Coach Mike Babcock said. "That's natural. But he has to understand that is his job. It doesn't make you bad goalie if you don't get to play for a while, or a bad person. When you get your opportunity, you just help the team win."

Gerber helped the Ducks tie, such is the funk their offense is in. The Ducks have scored eight goals in six games since Christmas, losing every one except Sunday.

That was averted because of Gerber's quality work right down to the final seconds. Scott Young slipped behind Duck defenseman Kurt Sauer and charged the net. But Gerber stopped Young's first shot and his rebound tap with 16 seconds left.

"Those are great ... if you make the save," Gerber said.

Petr Sykora gave the Ducks the lead 5:26 into the game, scoring with an innocent-looking shot on which Dallas goalie Marty Turco seemed to be screened. Turco, who has a 1.70 goals-against average, stopped 32 of 33 shots.

"Martin has come up big time for us," center Steve Rucchin said. "Two goals in two games, it's a shame we couldn't get him two wins."

It didn't help that the Ducks' power play resembles a still-life painting. They are scoreless on their last 20 power-play chances.

The Ducks were blanked on six tries Sunday, which included a double-minor on Sergei Zubov for high sticking.

The only thing the Ducks got in those four minutes was a lip full of stitches and a couple of loose teeth for Steve Rucchin, who took Zubov's stick in the face.

Even at that, the Ducks walked away in better spirits, moving into second place in the division ... 15 points behind Dallas.

"I'm pleased with the last two games, with the way we played," Babcock said. "You would have liked to have four points. But it looked like we're skating again and moving. I don't know if you [guys] noticed, but they're pretty good."

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