It was only four minutes, but it seemed like 40 to Duck goalie Ron Tugnutt.
Steven King took a holding penalty, the wisdom of which shall not be debated here, with the Ducks and the New York Islanders tied, 2-2, at the 12:49 mark of the third period. King compounded that by picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Ducks’ chances of preserving the tie seemed remote.
This seemed like a bad way to lose their third exhibition game. Surely, this was too easy an opportunity for the Islanders to pass up.
But a funny thing happened over the course of the four minutes King spent in the penalty box.
The Duck defense swarmed the Islanders, holding them without a shot on goal and ultimately that gave Patrik Carnback a chance to score the game-winning goal with less than two minutes left.
No question, though, the Ducks won on the strength of their defense and Tugnutt’s goaltending.
“Come the third period, we actually took their whole game away from them,” Tugnutt said.
The Islanders had 25 shots on goal, but only five in the third period and zero during the pivotal four-minute power play.
“We had to kill a lot of penalties tonight,” Tugnutt said. “The last one they had four minutes and didn’t get a single shot on goal.”
He sounded amazed when he said that.
Despite the Islanders’ lack of shots, those four minutes did not pass quietly for Tugnutt. Playing 60 minutes for the first time in the exhibition season, Tugnutt said he welcomed the challenge because it enabled him to stay focused for the entire game.
Without all the action in front of him, he said he “tends to get a little foggy.”
Until now, he has had to stay sharp for only 40 minutes, counting on relief help in the third period. But Wednesday, he was on his own. Coach Ron Wilson gave Tugnutt the chance to go 60 minutes this time. Guy Hebert gets his chance against Vancouver on Friday.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Wilson said. “I have to applaud Ronnie Tugnutt. He kept us in the game.”
The power-play killing unit also earned Wilson’s praise.
“I think it shows how much character this team has when they had almost their entire power-play team on the ice and we held them to no shots,” he said.
Winning came with a mixture of sheer joy and relief. The Ducks felt they had worked too hard to be winless.
“This is definitely something to build on,” Tugnutt said. “Actually, the last two games we played well. We deserved a better fate.”
With that in mind in the game’s most crucial moments, Tugnutt was determined to keep the Islanders from scoring.
“It was such a close game and the thought of getting that first win here as the Mighty Ducks’ goaltender was something I wanted to feel,” Tugnutt said.