ST. PAUL, Minn. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks are winning the close ones, and they've been nearly unbeatable away from home.
Minnesota must find a way to reverse those two trends to avoid falling behind 2-0 in the Western Conference finals.
The Mighty Ducks improved to 5-0 in overtime games and 5-1 on the road by beating the Wild 1-0 in two extra periods Saturday. Game 2 is Monday night in St. Paul.
You've got to win a game in their building anyway to advance, so you might as well get it over with early,'' Mighty Ducks center Adam Oates said after practice Sunday at the University of Minnesota.
Anaheim also got 39 saves from Jean-Sebastien Giguere and a few fortunate bounces to beat the Wild, continuing a trend that developed in the first two rounds. In sweeping defending champion Detroit and beating Dallas 4-2, the Ducks won the first two games on the road in both of the series.
Taking a 2-0 lead back to the Arrowhead Pond would be a huge step toward Anaheim's first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
This is not a lucky thing,'' coach Mike Babcock said. We've worked hard all year and deserve to be here.''
The Wild feel the same way, and they aren't fretting about the loss. Vancouver rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit to win Game 1 of their second-round series with Minnesota 4-3 in overtime, but the Wild won the last three games to advance.
I think we played well enough to win the game,'' coach Jacques Lemaire said after an optional skate-around in Minneapolis. We can't play much better than we did there.''
The Wild could have easily won in regulation were it not for Giguere, who improved to 9-2 in the playoffs and extended his overtime shutout streak to a near-record 160 minutes, 49 seconds. It's the second-longest run in history behind Patrick Roy's 162:56 in 1996-97.
Our goalie saved our bacon,'' Babcock said. But he reminded reporters that the other team has a goalie, too.''
Manny Fernandez, who works out with Giguere in Montreal during the offseason, was nearly as good as his counterpart until Petr Sykora lifted a 2-on-1 shot over Fernandez's glove and into the back of the net.
Lemaire didn't think Fernandez or Dwayne Roloson who probably will also get some playing time in this series should feel any pressure.
They're not playing against Giguere,'' Lemaire said. They're playing against Anaheim.''
Fernandez didn't speak to reporters after Saturday's game, but he was in good spirits Sunday.
I don't think we're the kind of group that freaks out after one game or gets nervous,'' he said. I don't think anything changes from here on out.''
The Wild felt they had plenty of quality chances against Giguere, but they need to get better on rebounds and choose better targets to shoot at.
Every goalie has different spots where you can beat them,'' right wing Sergei Zholtok said. It's frustrating, but at the same time you just continue to do what makes you successful.''
Minnesota entered the series with the most successful power play in the postseason, but the Wild went 0-for-5 against a Ducks penalty kill that was far more aggressive than the one the Canucks showed in the last round.
It's all puck control,'' Lemaire said. Even though the other team is more aggressive, if you move the puck to the right man, you will get the chance to score.''
Defenseman Willie Mitchell cautioned against using the power play as a crutch.
We also need to score goals 5-on-5,'' he said. We can't count on the power play every night.''
Though they faced Anaheim four times during the regular season, the Wild may have been taken a bit off-guard by the Ducks' defense-oriented style quite similar to Minnesota's that clogged the neutral zone all afternoon on Saturday. Colorado and Vancouver played more wide-open games in the first two rounds.
Whenever I got the puck,'' center Wes Walz said, there was a Duck jersey in my face.''
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