Coach Craig Hartsburg of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks isn't satisfied with the overall play of his team despite five victories in the last seven games.
He should consider himself fortunate that he isn't still in Chicago with the Chicago Blackhawks, who are 0-2 against Hartsburg since firing him last April after the team's NHL-record playoff streak ended after 28 seasons.
"Tonight's game had no special meaning to me just because it was Chicago," said Hartsburg after Sunday's 4-1 victory. "Maybe the first time we played them, but not this time. I've got lots of friends on the other side -- players and management -- but we were playing a conference team and we needed the two points."
Hartsburg's successor, Dirk Graham, can't seem to shake his team out of offensive doldrums. They scored fewer than three goals for the 11th time in their last 13 games.
"The guys' confidence right now is very fragile," Graham said. "Certainly the guys are pressing right now and things aren't happening for us."
Paul Kariya set up goals by Marty McInnis and Steve Rucchin and Guy Hebert again was solid in the nets for Anaheim. Stu Grimson and rookie Antti Aalto also scored for the Ducks, who have played short-handed in their last six games while Teemu Selanne nurses a stubborn thigh injury.
Hebert stopped chicago's first 25 shots, but lost his shutout bid with 2:23 remaining when Eric Daze beat him through the pads from 10 feet in the slot after a perfect setup by Alexei Zhamnov.
The goal came on a power play with Rucchin serving a holding penalty, and was only the second power-play goal against the Ducks in 37 short-handed situations over their last seven games.
"We were better tonight, as far as our positioning, and we didn't allow as many odd-man ruses," Hartsburg said. "Our overall defensive game was more solid."
The Blackhawks, who lost 5-0 to Jamie Storr and the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, barely avoided their first back-to-back shutout losses since Oct. 15-17 of last season. It was their fifth game in a row without defenseman Chris Chelios, who is out with a groin injury, and their 10th loss in 13 games.
one reason chicago's NHL-record streak of consecutive playoff appearances ended last spring was their 0-7 start -- the second-worst in league history. The Blackhawks won four of their first seven games this season, but have only one victory in 13 games since then -- a 2-1 decision over the expansion Nashville Predators.
"That's just the way things are going for us right now," Graham said. "We played a good first period, but the first goal they scored really took the wind out of us."
Giving up a goal by Grimson can be discouraging to any team. The nine-year veteran, who helped the Blackhawks get to the Stanley Cup finals in 1992, notched his third goal of this season in only 19 games and matched the career high he set in 82 games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997-98.
Jeff Nielsen chased the puck into the left corner with Chicago defenseman Trent Yawney in close pursuit and it squirted free to Ted Drury, who fed Grimson in the slot for a 25-foot wrist shot that beat Mark Fitzpatrick between the pads at 2:27 of the second period. It was Grimson's first goal in 25 career games against Chicago.
"I had to look around and say what's wrong with you guys?"said the Ducks' enforcer, who was allowed to hold the puck on his stick for a full second before shooting. "I just wanted to go to the net and put together some confusion. It was just one of those things. I got a great pass and put it in."
McInnis, whom the Blackhawks obtained from Calgary on Oct. 27 and then traded to Anaheim the same day, made it 2-0 less than 3 ½ minutes later while Chicago defenseman Remi Royer was off for high-sticking.
McInnis used Grimson as a screen and beat Fitzpatrick to the stick side from 25 feet for his sixth goal. Rucchin added his sixth goal 7 ½ minutes into the third period, converting Kariya's pass across the goalmouth. Kariya's two assists extended his point-scoring streak to nine games.
Allto scored the Ducks' fourth goal with 6:43 remaining, beating Fitzpatrick with a 30-footer to the glove side just 13 seconds after serving a hooking penalty.
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