This was some serious jostling for position.
Mighty Duck goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere tried to give way, shoving Paul Kariya, letting him get first crack at the postgame softball questions on live television.
Kariya, the team captain, had a two-goal game Wednesday, which made him worthy of first-in-line. But he was having none of it and deferred to Giguere with a gentle nudge, then a hard push.
“He should be center stage,” Kariya said later. “He deserves to be there.”
There was little reason to arguing the fact.
That the Ducks are one victory from the Stanley Cup finals after a 4-0 pasting of the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday is a collective achievement. The victory in Game 3 in front of a raucous 17,174 at the Arrowhead Pond made that clear.
Kariya had two goals, one he batted out of mid-air. Adam Oates and Petr Sykora assisted on both, giving the Ducks’ top line its best game of the playoffs. Veteran Steve Rucchin and rookie Stanislav Chistov each had a goal. Keith Carney and Kurt Sauer anchored the defense.
Yet center stage belonged to Giguere.
There was little doubt of that after his NHL record-tying third consecutive playoff shutout. Giguere made 35 saves and extended his shutout streak to 213 minutes 17 seconds, 35 minutes shy of the NHL playoff record.
“He has been the best player in the playoffs,” Carney said. “It is not a surprise to us.”
Nor is it surprising that the Ducks stand on the verge of the Stanley Cup finals, after winning for the 11th time in 13 playoff games.
Only two teams have rallied to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. The New York Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1975 and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings in 1942.
“We need to finish this off,” winger Mike Leclerc said. “They are like a cornered animal now.”
There was caution in Duck voices, stemming from the Wild’s recent track record of postponing elimination in the postseason. Twice the Wild was down 3-1 in a series. Both times it rallied to win.
But before the Wild can win a game, it will have to score a goal.
Giguere has stopped 98 shots in this series.
“What can you say? He is making history,” Anaheim defenseman Ruslan Salei said.
Giguere became only the second goalie to start a playoff series with three shutouts, joining Toronto’s Frank McCool, who had three shutouts against Detroit in 1945. Giguere is less than two periods shy of Normie Smith’s playoff record of 248:32, set with Detroit in 1936.
How good he has been in the playoffs reflects in the Ducks being up 3-0 in the Western Conference finals, with a chance to finish off the Wild on Friday night.
How good he has been in two seasons with the Ducks is the fact that he is still shy of his personal best shutout streak, 237:07, set in the regular season. It’s the third longest regular season streak in NHL history.
Asked about Giguere’s performance, Rucchin shrugged and said, “We’re kind of used to it by now.
“He’s been like this all season long. You look at the numbers, they are phenomenal. But we still need to make his job easier.”
The Ducks actually did take a load off Wednesday with four goals.
Leclerc got off a shot from the right boards. Goalie Dwayne Roloson made the save, with the puck flipping into the air. Just as it landed on the ice, Rucchin whacked it into an open net for a 1-0 lead at 4:59 into the game.
The Wild had a silver-platter opportunity to tie the score when poor communication between Salei and Carney at the blue line gave Marian Gaborik a breakaway. He rushed into the Duck zone and got off a clean shot, but Giguere made an equally clean save with his right knee.
“He scores that goal and everything swings back their way,” Carney said.
From that moment, the Ducks dominated, as they scored three goals in less than six minutes in the second period, with one disallowed goal in that stretch.
Kariya made it 2-0 with his first goal 8:20 into the second period. He buried a one-timer after Oates and Sykora played a little hot potato with the puck behind the net.
That set things rolling. Chistov slid a puck past Roloson for a 3-0 lead at 12:16, which sent Roloson to the bench. Kariya batted the puck out of the air and past Manny Fernandez, Roloson’s replacement, for a 4-0 lead at 13:51.
Those were sideshows. Center stage belonged to Giguere.
Said Carney: “He has been the story of the playoffs.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Three Shutouts and CountingThe Mighty Ducks’ Jean-Sebastien Giguere can become the first goaltender to record four shutouts in a playoff series with one more against the Wild. Giguere tied eight others with his third shutout in one playoff series:
*--* Player, Team Year Round Games, Opponent Clint Benedict, 1926 Final 4 games vs. Victoria Montreal Maroons Dave Kerr, N.Y. 1940 Semifinal 6 games vs. Boston Rangers Frank McCool, 1945 Final 7 games vs. Detroit Toronto Turk Broda, 1950 Semifinal 7 games vs. Detroit Toronto Felix Potvin, 1994 Conf. quarterfinal 6 games vs. Chicago Toronto Martin Brodeur, 1995 Conf. quarterfinal 5 games vs. Boston New Jersey Brent Johnson, 2002 Conf. quarterfinal 5 games vs.Chicago St. Louis Patrick Lalime, 2002 Conf. quarterfinal 5 games vs. Philadelphia Ottawa Jean-Sebastien 2003 Conf. final Ducks lead series, 3-0 Giguere, Ducks Note: Giguere has not allowed a goal in the last 213 minutes, 17 seconds. The playoff record is held by Normie Smtih of Detroit in 1936 at 248:32