Paul Kariya marched toward a midnight bus that would take him to the Mighty Ducks’ hotel and what figured to be a fitful night’s sleep. His jaw was set, his brow furrowed. He held a bottle of water in his hand and was squeezing the life from it.
Kariya spoke in a calm tone, but his frustration was difficult to miss as he stood on a deserted loading dock at the Continental Airlines Arena. He talked about creating more havoc and making things difficult for the New Jersey Devils, who had it too easy again in a 3-0 victory Thursday in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals that looked very much like their 3-0 win Tuesday in Game 1.
The Duck captain said all the right things after he had done none of them on the ice. In two games, he has one shot on net and zero goals.
“We hoped to get a split here,” he said, referring to the two-games-to-none deficit the Ducks face. Game 3 is Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond. “We haven’t played anywhere near our best hockey, so maybe that’s a positive sign for us. We’re not generating enough offense, obviously. We have to play our game and get back to doing what we’ve been doing in the playoffs. We’re giving them way too much.”
All Kariya had to show for two lost games in the Jersey swamplands was a strawberry beneath his right eye, evidence of the pounding he has taken so far in his first Stanley Cup finals.
Hours earlier, before he had been thumped against the boards by New Jersey defenseman Scott Stevens and been muzzled for the second consecutive game, Kariya had called this new experience, “fun.”
“I’m having the time of my life,” he said after the Ducks’ morning skate.
After the game, after he had stood in front of a mob of reporters and camera jockeys and said all the polite things that make him one of the game’s better sportsmen, he looked as if he were ready for a fight.
“It’s the playoffs,” he said after showering, dressing and chatting with a friend. “They’re a great team, but we have to be better.”
It’s unlikely that the Ducks could be much more ineffective in recording 16 shots in Game 1 and duplicating that dubious achievement in Game 2. Kariya went into the finals with 43 shots on net, one behind Petr Sykora for the team lead. He had a team-high five goals to go with eight points.
He has been skating through mud ever since.
The Devils have hemmed him in, badgered him and kept him from getting anywhere near goaltender Martin Brodeur’s net. His lone shot of the series was a quick missile from the high slot in the third period of Game 1.
Garbage time, as it turned out.
Many would expect more from a player making $10 million per season.
Kariya might be one of them.
“We’re going to stay together,” he said, speaking of his shell-shocked teammates. “It’s a setback for us, but we’ll be better in the next game. There’s a reason we’ve had the success we’ve had. We have to get an early goal and get them to open up. You have to give credit to the Devils for playing good defensive hockey.
“When we move the puck well, we have gotten great scoring chances. When we haven’t moved the puck, we haven’t gotten anything. We have to be patient. It’s not a question of changing anything. It’s a matter of executing.”