This was a bad sign.
Mighty Duck players went on and off the ice during the third period Saturday. Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere was there to open the bench gate.
A very bad sign.
Giguere, who has been brilliant throughout the playoffs, had more than enough time to reflect while watching the Dallas Stars put the finishing elbows on a 4-1 victory in front of 18,532 at the American Airlines Center that kept them alive in the Western Conference semifinals.
With that issue decided, Giguere was given a safe haven where Star players couldn’t bump, shove, spindle or mutilate him.
“Jiggy can’t carry us every night,” said right wing Steve Thomas, who had a fresh set of stitches over his right eye. “It wasn’t his fault today. We didn’t clear the puck from our zone. We didn’t slow anyone up in the neutral zone. We didn’t hit anyone. We can bang people too. We need to do that.”
“When you get your lunch handed to you, that’s a pretty good reminder of who you are,” Duck Coach Mike Babcock said.
The Stars served up a reminder of who they are during 60 minutes that left an impression, not to mention gashes, bruises and several overall aches. It was painfully clear who was going to control this game.
“They put us on our heels at the start of the game and we never got off them,” Duck captain Paul Kariya said.
Niko Kapanen scored two goals. Stu Barnes scored one, which put the Ducks two goals down for the first time in nine playoff games. Goalie Marty Turco had a low-stress afternoon, facing only 15 shots.
The Ducks’ fortunes were best represented by their power play, which went scoreless in six chances and shotless on four.
So it is back to Anaheim for Game 6 on Monday. Only 18 of 197 teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win an NHL playoff series, including two this season in the first round.
“We bought ourselves two more days,” said center Mike Modano, who assisted on the Stars’ first goal with a slick cross-ice pass that deflected off Rob DiMaio’s skate into the net 9 minutes 20 seconds into the game.
By then a routine had been established. The Stars did the hitting. The Ducks took the beating.
That paid off in Barnes’ goal. Pierre Turgeon outfought defensemen Keith Carney and Ruslan Salei in the corner and managed to slide the puck out. Barnes took it from there, going to the net and sliding a shot past Giguere for a 2-0 lead 14:20 into the game.
“We wanted to take the game into our hands,” Dallas center Jason Arnott said.
The Stars used their hands ... and elbows, shoulders, sticks, anything that was handy, to disrupt the Ducks.
Even yanking Giguere with the Stars leading, 3-0, after two periods was more an act of mercy than an expression of dissatisfaction, according to Babcock.
“Goaltender interference was at an all-time high,” Babcock said. “They were taking liberties.”
This was a low-risk strategy, considering the Ducks’ low-return power play.
The Ducks were given four opportunities in the second period to cut into a 2-0 Star lead and failed each time.
Babcock spent the previous two days defending the power play, now three for 38 in the playoffs.
The defense rested Saturday.
“The power play is an issue ... big time,” he said. “I thought our power play was scary bad and we have to address that for sure.”
The Duck power play did result in two goals ... for the Stars.
Modano broke out on a two-on-one, with teammate Richard Matvichuk in the penalty box. The Ducks’ Adam Oates failed to tie up a charging DiMaio and the puck found his skate just as Matvichuk stepped out of the penalty box.
Kapanen converted a turnover into a short-handed goal with 1:50 left in the second period, skating from the Stars’ blue line and into the Duck zone before slipping a shot under Giguere’s right leg for a 3-0 lead.
Giguere got a needed rest soon after that and the Ducks, Babcock hopes, got the message.
“We didn’t just lose a game in overtime here,” Babcock said. “We got beaten badly.”