Mighty Ducks 6, Stars 1

Saturday, January 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ The Dallas Stars certainly hope their long-term response to a coaching change is better than the initial result.

After Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock was fired earlier Friday, the Stars suffered their most lopsided loss of the season in interim coach Rick Wilson's debut. Anaheim scored three times in the first 10 minutes and won 6-1.

``We've got to face the music, we are not as good as we should be,'' Stars left wing Kirk Muller said. ``We have 31 games to get better. It's how we respond the next 31 games, more than just tonight.''

The Stars lost for the fourth time in five games, failing to make up ground on idle San Jose, which is four points ahead in the Pacific Division lead. Dallas is seventh in the Western Conference.

Anaheim, 14th in the Western Conference, outshot Dallas 9-1 in taking the quick 3-0 lead. When the Ducks extended the lead to 5-0 with two goals in a 41-second span of the second, Wilson pulled goalie Ed Belfour.

``It's usually the other way around when a coach is let go,'' said Anaheim's Bryan Murray, who became the eighth NHL coach with 500 career victories. ``Tonight, it didn't happen. I haven't seen Dallas struggle like this before.''

The six goals were a season high for Anaheim and matched the most given up by the Stars.

The only Dallas goal came midway through the second when Richard Matvichuk scored a power-play goal, his sixth, for a 5-1 score.

Hitchcock was fired because his message just wasn't getting through to the players anymore. His demanding style centered on defense _ the same as when the Stars won their only Stanley Cup championship in 1999 and returned the finals the next year _ haven't changed, but the results have.

``There comes a period in time, quite frankly, when sometimes the same message, the way you want the team to play, the way you want the players to act, the way you want them come together, doesn't hit home,'' Hitchcock said.

The Stars have won five straight division titles, but have struggled for consistency this season. Hitchcock was 277-160-60-6 since taking over for Bob Gainey midway through the 1995-96 season. He was 47-33 in the postseason.

Gainey _ the only other person to coach the Stars since their move to Dallas for the 1993-94 season _ also moved from his general manager position into a consultant's role now rather than at the end of the season as planned. Assistant GM Doug Armstrong, who was being groomed for the job, took over immediately.

The changes, and the promotion of longtime assistant Wilson, did little to spark the Stars.

``The players have to be the ones to fix it,'' said Mike Modano, the Stars' top goal-scorer. ``We used to have an attitude, a mindset. We have to recover and get it back. Our style is not going to change, our system is not going to be different.''

Armstrong said he wouldn't make any major personnel moves, and would evaluate Wilson's performance at the end of the season. Wilson was in his 10th season as a Stars assistant after three years with the Los Angeles Kings.

Matt Cullen had two goals, including a power-play goal in the third period to end the scoring, and an assist for Anaheim.

Cullen had an assist on German Titov's goal under Belfour's pad just 5:58 into the game. Three minutes later, Cullen scored a rebound goal to give the Mighty Ducks a 2-0 lead.

The Ducks then needed less than a minute more before Paul Kariya scored the first of Anaheim's power-play goals _ scoring on his own rebound _ for a 3-0 lead.

``We didn't get their best effort,'' Anaheim's Jeff Friesen said. ``They didn't have the energy of one the top teams.''

Belfour, who has lost four straight games, was pulled after Anaheim's two second-period goals. He faced just 18 shots.

Mike Leclerc's backhander from just in front of the net came on a power play 6:25 into the period. Marc Chouinard followed with an unassisted goal.