ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Two games into a fast-slipping-away Stanley Cup finals for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, no finalist since 1945 has done so little in so much time.
No wins. No goals. No momentum. No semblance of an offense. No reason to think the New Jersey Devils, two wins away from their third Stanley Cup in nine seasons, are about to let them back into a series in which they have yet to threaten to score a goal, much less win a game.
The dawdling Ducks weren't just beaten in nearly identical 3-0 games in which they managed just 16 shots in each, they barely were competitive.
Martin Brodeur, the first goalie to start the finals with two shutouts since Toronto's Frank McCool against Detroit in 1945, has been Martin McCool, turning aside everything he's seen with a confident calmness that must be unnerving to the Ducks.
Certainly, a 2-0 lead isn't a guarantee the Devils will hoist yet another Lou Lamoriello-produced Stanley Cup in a few days; the Devils, after all, led Ottawa 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals not even two weeks ago and wound up having to score late in Game 7 to advance.
"Every single player knows nothing has been accomplished here," coach Pat Burns said Friday.
Scott Gomez, who scored one of the Devils' two pivotal goals in the second period in Game 2, said any suggestion the series is over is nonsensical.
"No one in here feels comfortable until it is over," Gomez said. "All we did was keep home-ice advantage. You can't start thinking that way. We haven't accomplished anything."
Still, as they prepared to play Game 3 tonight at the Pond, the Mighty Ducks must be mighty concerned they've conceded too big of an edge and too much momentum to the Devils.
"We don't have emotion when we play, that's what's been lacking so far," goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "I don't know what it is. Maybe we think we don't deserve to win. … But I'll be disappointed if everybody doesn't show up with a lot of emotion."
There was no passion lacking in Giguere. When a reporter suggested to Paul Kariya the Ducks might be a fluke team that doesn't belong in the finals, Giguere immediately stepped in and answered.
"We're not a fluke … no way are we a fluke. We beat Detroit, Dallas, Minnesota, we deserve to be here," he said. "They (the Devils) aren't a better team than we are. We are able to beat them, but everybody has to come and play their game."
So far, whatever it is the Ducks are doing isn't working. They're not getting bodies to the net to create traffic, as the Devils did on their first two goals Thursday. They're not making Brodeur work hard for his saves. They're not getting the puck out of their zone with any speed or consistency. They're not clearing out the net in front of Giguere, who was near perfect in the first three rounds but has been far from perfect in the finals.
What the Ducks need are their playmakers — Kariya, Adam Oates, Petr Sykora — to be more visible, to find ways to get out of the neutral zone with some momentum. Kariya had only one shot in Game 1 and none in Game 2.
As Ducks coach Mike Babcock said, "Obviously, we have to check our competitiveness because, right now, they're winning all the battles."
Another worry for the Ducks: New Jersey is doing all the things Anaheim did in the first three rounds, only the Devils are doing them better. They're frustrating the Ducks offensively, creating breakdowns. They are causing Anaheim to question its own confidence, making the Ducks worry that even a 1-0 lead will be too much to overcome in any game.
"As soon as they score, it's been like 'Holy dickens, what happened?' " Babcock said.
The Red Wings, Stars and Wild all were down 2-0 to the Mighty Ducks, and none truly responded. Now it is the Ducks who are down 2-0, and only they know how they will react against a team playing in its third finals in four seasons.
"We've been good here at home, now we've got to hold serve," Babcock said. "Now we've got to get going."
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