ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—Anaheim didn’t need overtime to beat Minnesota this time, just an opportunistic penalty kill, strong defense and another outstanding performance by its unflappable goalie.
Anaheim, which won the opener 1-0 in double overtime, has a 2-0 lead in this unlikely Western Conference final matchup.
The Mighty Ducks have won the first two games on the road in each of their three playoff series this year, the first team in NHL history to do so. They’re 6-1 away from home in the postseason.
The series shifts to Anaheim for Game 3 on Wednesday.
“I thought it was one of our better games as a team,” Giguere said.
If the Wild can’t figure out a way to get the puck past Giguere, who made 24 saves, then they won’t play at home again in this surprisingly successful third season.
Maybe Minnesota is better off leaving town, since it dropped to 2-6 at Xcel Energy Center in the postseason. The Wild are 6-2 on the road.
“For some reason, I don’t know, we’re not playing as well or not getting the breaks,” coach Jacques Lemaire said. “You know, it doesn’t take a lot to turn it around.”
Giguere hasn’t given up a goal in more than 2 1/2 hours of action. He extended his scoreless streak to 153 minutes, 17 seconds, dating to Game 6 against Dallas in the second round—a span of three games.
“It’s not too often that you’re going to score two short-handed goals like that—never mind one,” Anaheim center Steve Rucchin said. “We’re fortunate enough to come up with another win again, thanks to Jiggy.”
The Mighty Ducks complained of dead legs in the first game after their four-day layoff that followed a 4-2 series victory over Dallas. But they picked up their attack and gave Minnesota goalie Dwayne Roloson more to do than Manny Fernandez was given Saturday in Game 1.
Roloson made 20 saves for the Wild, who lost Game 1 despite outshooting the Ducks 39-26.
Anaheim improved in just about every aspect for Game 2, except for Giguere who was good enough already.
Sauer, Sandis Ozolinsh, and Keith Carney led a suffocating Ducks defense that jumped on nearly every puck in their zone and blocked dozens of shots. Not-so-crisp passing and uncharacteristically selfish skating by the Wild made it even tougher for them to develop any scoring chances.
“The worst thing you can do in the playoffs is do it by yourself,” Lemaire said. “One guy is so easy to stop.”
Left wing Andrew Brunette pointed out that Anaheim’s first two playoff opponents—both teams with more offensive skill—were unsuccessful against this Ducks defense.
The Mighty Ducks, though, are still cognizant of their No. 7 seed.
“There hasn’t been one point in these playoffs where we’ve felt like we weren’t scared to death about losing the next hockey game,” right wing Dan Bylsma said. “We got two fortunate breaks tonight, but we’re still scared to lose the next game.
“We just can’t take our foot off the gas.”
Minnesota, which took just one penalty in Game 1 to Anaheim’s five, got a power play in the second period when Niedermayer was whistled for hooking.
Cliff Ronning, whose unobstructed slap shot earlier in the period whizzed just wide of the goal, sneaked in from behind the net and nearly poked one in between Giguere and the pipe.
Seconds later, Bylsma won a battle for the puck at center ice and led his short-handed mates on an odd-man rush the other way.
Rucchin circled through the slot and left the puck behind him for Sauer, who shot it low to Roloson’s stick side, got a deflection off a Wild defender’s stick and put the Ducks up 1-0.
That was just the second goal of Sauer’s NHL career.
“I’m not in there that often,” he said, “so I just let her fire.”
The overflow sellout crowd of 19,344 roared during the intros, but the enthusiasm slowly ebbed—save for a few boos as the seconds in the middle period ticked down following a Wild power play in which the home team couldn’t get a shot on goal.
Minnesota, which still has the best man-advantage percentage in the playoffs at 15-for-65, was 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 1 and 0-for-3 in this one.
Near the midpoint of the third period, while Minnesota was on a power play, Ronning’s stick broke as he lost control of the puck at center ice.
Niedermayer took it away and—skating unabated to the goal—gave Anaheim a2-0 lead with 11:54 remaining.
Sauer grew up in the Minnesota town of Sartell about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities. His older brother, Craig, played pro football—as a linebacker for Atlanta when the Falcons beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game in January 1999. … Rookie C Pierre Marc-Bouchard, the Wild’s first-round draft pick last summer, dressed for the first time since Game 4 of the first round against Colorado. … Minnesota D Brad Brown wasscratched because his wife, Jan-Mari, was expecting a baby.