What the Mighty Ducks might have been thinking Wednesday 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 against an NHL team before Wednesday--even the Florida Panthers, the Ducks’ expansion companion, are 3-4-0 with victories over Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Hartford.
The Ducks were 0-2 with a loss to Pittsburgh and an overtime loss to the Kings. They had only beaten their minor league affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, and as the final minutes of the Ducks’ third exhibition game at Anaheim Arena ticked away, they appeared headed for a tie or worse.
But suddenly left wing Joe Sacco streaked down the left side and put a pass onto center Patrik Carnback’s stick five feet in front of the goal. Carnback flicked it high to beat goaltender Ron Hextall at 18:09 of the third and give the crowd of 13,405 a thrill.
Yes, it’s best they enjoy while they can. The season starts Oct. 8 against Detroit in Anaheim Arena. The most games won by a recent expansion team is 23 by Tampa Bay last season. Ottawa won 10.
“Tonight, they deserved to win,” Islander Coach Al Arbour said. “They outplayed us, they outworked us and they deserved to win.
“We’ve got a lot of guys not playing well. Our players will learn from this and tonight, they got embarrassed.
“Anaheim did everything right tonight. They checked on the boards very well and their play selections were very good. They have a scrappy team and they are going to be in every game they play.”
It was a victory--but it was an exhibition, and the Islanders were playing without center Pierre Turgeon, who scored 58 goals and 132 points last season. Turgeon is resting a sore wrist and is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
No matter to Duck Coach Ron Wilson.
“In the last 10 minutes of the game, it was important for this team to get some credibility and get a win,” he said. “It was all out for the last part of the game.”
The Ducks had to work hard to kill a four-minute penalty after right wing Steven King was called for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct at 12:49 of the third with the score tied, 2-2. King was retaliating against David Volek, who knocked him down in the slot.
“We’re really happy that we managed to kill off the four-minute penalty,” Wilson said after watching his team hold the Islanders without a shot on that power play. “At least now we know our system’s working.”
It was a lackluster game until the end, but the crowd got a thrill with about seven minutes left when Duck defenseman Randy Ladouceur shot from the red line into a practically empty net after Hextall had bolted 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 home. One problem--his teammates were offside--no goal.
The score was tied, 1-1, entering the third after a Duck power-play goal by Anatoli Semenov and a goal by the Islanders’ Patrick Flatley.
Yake changed that in the third on the power play with a goal just seven seconds after a faceoff. Yake, streaking toward the Islander net on a breakaway after a faceoff, switched from his forehand to his backhand and sharply angled a shot past Hextall into the far corner of the net.
The lead lasted about 10 minutes, until the Ducks let Steve Thomas set up next to the right goalpost and easily knocked in a pass from David Volek to tie the score, 2-2, at 10:43 of the third period.