ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—More magic in Anaheim: The Mighty Ducks are in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time.
Forty-year-old Adam Oates scored twice, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 24 shots on his 26th birthday Friday night as the seventh-seeded Ducks beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 for their second sweep of the playoffs.
“It’s a great birthday present, something I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid,” said Giguere, who stopped 122 of 123 Minnesota shots in the Western Conference finals. “Just to be part of this is very exceptional.
“Now it’s just beginning. Every game is going to be exciting and it’s going to be fun.”
The Wild’s lone goal against Giguere and the Ducks is the fewest ever in a best-of-seven series. Boston had just two in a 1935 series, and Montreal had two in a 1952 series.
“To give up one goal in a series is unbelievable,” Anaheim rookie coach Mike Babcock said.
Minnesota came into the Western Conference finals as the playoffs’ top scoring team, with 42 goals, but Giguere stifled the Wild’s offense.
Their only goal ended Giguere’s playoff shutout streak at 217 minutes, 54 seconds—the longest since 1951—and fifth-longest in playoff history.
“I knew at some point, there was going to be a goal some way, somehow. It had become kind of a distraction, with people asking about it. I think the team should get the credit. I feel the team did an unbelievable job playing in front of me.
“They made my job so much easier.”
“Hopefully, we’re going to win,” Giguere said. “But it doesn’t matter. We’ll all be better players—a better team—after that.”
The Ducks are the second Anaheim long shot to make it to a championship series in some seven months—the underdog Angels went all the way last fall, winning their first World Series title. Both the Ducks and Angels are owned by the Walt Disney Co., although the baseball team is being sold to Arizona businessman Arturo Moreno, and the hockey team is up for sale.
Giguere, whose goaltending has been the hallmark of Anaheim’s 12-2 run through the playoffs, lost his bid for an unprecedented fourth consecutive postseason shutout on Minnesota’s fourth shot, but was unbeatable the rest of the way.
Oates, signed by Anaheim as a free agent last July, broke a 1-1 tie when he scored on a power play at 8:30 of the second period. As he was for his first goal of the game, Oates was in perfect position, this time parked near the goal just left of the crease.
Oates, who has never played on a Stanley Cup champion, was pleased to be back in the finals. He was with Washington when the Capitals lost to Detroit in 1998.
“It’s obviously a great feeling,” Oates said. “At the beginning of the year, I would not have thought we would be here.”
Oates said Giguere has paved the way for the Ducks, starting with his 63 saves in Anaheim’s 2-1, three-overtime win in the playoff opener against the Red Wings.
“In Game 1 with Detroit, Jigger set the tone and we’ve been riding him ever since,” Oates said. “His play has been fantastic and we wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
On his go-ahead goal, Mike Leclerc shot from the right circle, Rob Niedermayer got a stick on it, and the puck came through to Oates. He was able to poke it into the net since Manny Fernandez was guarding the right post.
Leclerc also assisted on Oates’ first goal—a power play at 8:30 of the opening period.
The multigoal playoff game was the sixth of Oates’ career, and first since April 28, 1998, when he was with Washington.
Andrew Brunette scored 4:37 in to end Giguere’s scoreless streak—the longest since Montreal’s Gerry McNeil went 218:42 in 1951. Giguere had not allowed a goal since the third period of Anaheim’s clinching victory over Dallas in the second round.
Brunette deflected Cliff Ronning’s shot from the point on a power play for the Wild’s first goal against Giguere in 102 shots against him to give Minnesota a short-lived 1-0 lead.
Oates scored four minutes later to tie it. Leclerc’s shot bounced off Minnesota defenseman Brad Bombardir and dropped in the slot, where Oates wristed it past Fernandez.
Fernandez faced 28 shots.
Anaheim, in only its third postseason since coming into the league in 1993, swept the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings in the first round this year, then knocked off top-seeded Dallas 4-2 in the second. It was the first time in league history that one team had knocked off the top two conference seeds in the same year.
Ten of the Ducks’ 12 playoff wins have been by one goal, and one of theirlosses was a 2-1 defeat by Dallas.
Montreal’s George Hainsworth had the longest playoff shutout streak, going 270:08 in 1930. Dave Kerr of the New York Rangers is second with a streak of 248:35 in 1937, and Detroit’s Norm Smith is third (248:32 in 1936). … Babcock is the first rookie coach to reach the Cup finals since Florida’s Doug MacLean in 1996. Montreal’s Jean Perron was the last rookie coach to win theCup, in 1986.