ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA (TICKER) —While Anaheim continues to climb, Carolina just fades into obscurity, one year after reaching the Stanley Cup finals.
“The last three games I’ve felt very good,” said Giguere, who improved to 10-2 in his last 12 starts. “I’ve had a lot of enegy. I feel really good and I saw the puck well.”
Anaheim improved to 10-3-0-1 in its last 14 contests and moved six games over .500 for the first time in franchise history. The Ducks hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We’re playing every game now like it’s a playoff game, protecting our leads and playing good defensive hockey,” Krog said.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Hurricanes, who suffered their sixth straight loss and their eighth in a row on the road. Carolina is just 4-17-2-2 in its last 25 games.
“It was a tough game for us,” Carolina’s Pavel Brendl said. “We played well. We had a few chances but we couldn’t capitalize. They scored their goals on a couple mistakes that we made and it cost us the game.”
The Mighty Ducks were sluggish in the first period, getting outshot 11-5, but Anaheim took over in the second period. Kariya opened the scoring with 10:12 left in the period and Krog tallied a shorthanded goal just over six minutes later.
“We did a good job,” Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said. “But they had more energy and they came out prepared. We held them off in the first and we had a better second period. The thing I like about tonight is that we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game in terms of intensity but we were able to pull this one out.”
“We’re a good team right now,” Giguere added. “Our penalty kill has been very good and we’re getting help from the second and fourth lines. The defense has been giving up one shot and then keeping the rebounds away.”
Carolina was mounting little offense and Giguere appeared headed for his sixth shutout of the season, but Jeff O’Neill spoiled the bid with a spectacular individual effort with 5:57 left in the contest.
O’Neill, who criticized coach Paul Maurice for singling out seven players for an extra skating drill after a recent practice, swept a one-handed shot past Giguere while being checked by defenseman Kurt Sauer in the left circle.
It was the team-leading 20th goal for O’Neill, who reached the mark for the fourth straight season.
“He’s a very skilled player,” Giguere said. “He’s very strong and he found a way to get that shot on net. That’s what skilled players do.”
But the Hurricanes, who are next-to-last in the NHL with 114 goals, hurt themselves by taking two penalties in the final 3 1/2 minutes. Carolina played shorthanded until the final four seconds.
Midway through the second period, recently acquired Sandis Ozolinsh gathered the puck along the side boards and passed behind the net to Petr Sykora. Sykora fed in front to Kariya, who beat Kevin Weekes to the glove side with a backhander from the right circle.
“Their first goal was just an amazing shot from Paul Kariya,” Carolina defenseman Bret Hedican said. “Sometimes if you give him just one shot, it will cost you. The other goal was a shorthanded goal where we had a turnover and it cost us. Their guy just guessed right and that was the game.”
With Ruslan Salei serving an interference penalty, Samuel Pahlsson took the puck away from Jan Hlavac outside the Hurricanes’ blue line. Pahlsson led Krog, who was two steps ahead of the nearest Carolina player and broke it alone. Weekes made the initial save, but Krog poked his own rebound between Weekes’ left skate and the post to make it 2-0.
“I was going to deke him but the puck began rolling at the top of the circle,” Krog said. “After I shot I was able to corral the rebound and put it past him. We had a lot of opportunities tonight.”
Weekes finished with 20 saves.
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