What the Mighty Ducks might have been thinking Wednesday night after their 3-2 exhibition victory over the New York Islanders: Can we count this one?
What the Islanders might have been thinking: Why us?
Every team except the Ducks had won an exhibition game before Wednesday--even the Florida Panthers, the Ducks’ expansion companion, are 3-4-0.
The Ducks were 0-2 and had beaten only their minor league affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. As the final minutes of the Ducks’ third exhibition at Anaheim Arena ticked away, they appeared headed for a tie or worse. But suddenly left wing Joe Sacco streaked toward the goal and put a pass onto the stick of center Patrik Carnback right in front of the goal. Carnback flicked it high, and Ron Hextall watched it fall into the goal at 18:09 of the third period.
Most of the crowd of 13,405 erupted into jubilant cheers.
Better enjoy them while you can. The season starts Oct. 8. The most games a recent expansion team has won were 23, by Tampa Bay last season. Ottawa won 10.
The game was lackluster until near the end, but the crowd got a thrill in the third period when Duck defenseman Randy Ladouceur shot the puck from the red line into a practically empty net after Hextall bolted out to the faceoff circle to fend off a shorthanded breakaway by Terry Yake.
With Hextall scrambling to get back in the crease, the puck came out to Ladouceur, who slapped it in. One problem--his teammates were off-side. No goal.
It was a victory--but it was exhibition, and the Islanders were playing without center Pierre Turgeon, who scored 58 goals and 132 points last season. Turgeon is nursing a sore wrist but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
The score was tied, 1-1, entering the third period, but the Ducks’ Yake changed that with a quick-strike power-play goal seven seconds after the faceoff. Yake, streaking toward the Islander goal on a breakaway immediately after the Ducks won the faceoff, switched from his forehand to his backhand as he zeroed in on Hextall, then sharply angled a shot past Hextall into the far corner of the net.
The lead lasted about 10 minutes, until Steve Thomas knocked in a pass from David Volek for a 2-2 tie.