Stars Put Ducks to Sleep : Hockey: Schedule leaves Anaheim weary and Dallas takes advantage to win, 4-1.
All those fresh faces in the Mighty Duck lineup can’t change everything.
Especially when they don’t have fresh legs.
The Ducks are an improving team, but they still have the ability to be dull--very dull--and their 4-1 loss to Dallas on Wednesday night looked a lot more like something from last season than any game so far.
Exhaustion might be part of it--as it is going to be occasionally for every team during this shortened, herky-jerky season. The Ducks were playing their fourth game in six days after a quick, grueling trip to Western Canada and an emotionally draining home-opener.
The excitement of their 5-4 come-from-behind overtime victory against Edmonton on Monday wasn’t much in evidence this time at The Pond before a crowd of 17,174. The Ducks managed a mere five shots in the first period, and only six in the third as they tried to come back, failing to score on two power-play opportunities in the final period. They finished the game with 23 shots.
“We certainly looked tired but you’ve got to give them credit,” Duck Coach Ron Wilson said. “They checked the heck out of us and shut us down in the neutral zone. We just didn’t have the energy or the persistence to fight through it.”
Peter Douris, who had the Ducks’ only goal, a disputed one, said, “It kind of felt like the first part of the first period we were skating through mortar. After we were down a goal or two, it was tough to come back.”
Rookie Paul Kariya still created more scoring chances than the Ducks are used to seeing in a game, but they couldn’t capitalize, and the Stars made the final margin three goals on Brent Gilchrist’s empty-netter with 38 seconds left after the Ducks pulled goalie Mikhail Shtalenkov for an extra attacker.
Dallas goalie Darcy Wakaluk, making his first start of the season, was outstanding, making 22 saves and foiling a couple of breakaways.
The Ducks looked tired, and as Wilson noted, there’s reason for any NHL team to--though Dallas had three days off before facing the Kings and Ducks on consecutive nights.
“At this point, as a coach you can’t whip a dead horse,” Wilson said. “You have to work on certain things and make guys get their rest.”
The Ducks didn’t score until 15:35 of the second period--and it was a questionable goal at that. Shaun Van Allen carried the puck in on a 4-on-2 rush and fed it to Peter Douris by the right post, where Wakaluk made a sliding save on Douris’ first attempt. But the puck popped up, and Douris seemed to bat it toward the net with his glove while still holding his stick. It ended up going in--perhaps off Wakaluk’s own raised left leg--but it should only have counted if Douris had knocked it in with part of his stick. Wakaluk complained vociferously, to no avail. Referee Paul Stewart ruled it a goal after a video review.
Gilchrist had two goals--the first a shorthanded goal at 14:05 of the second when he skated to the left side of the net and redirected Dean Evason’s pass while teammate Kevin Hatcher was off for hooking. That made the lead 2-0.
Mike Modano, who scored 50 goals for Dallas last season, scored his first of the year when Trent Klatt’s breakout pass sent him out front, where he pulled up short, faked out Shtalenkov, went back to his forehand and scored on a diving effort. That made the score 3-1 at 17:12 of the second.
The Ducks played a somnolent first period, managing only five shots--one of them Bob Corkum’s shorthanded chance at the end of the period. Meanwhile, Dallas took a 1-0 lead after center Todd Harvey, playing his first NHL game, flipped a pass behind him to Dave Gagner while facing the glass, and Gagner put it past Shtalenkov just inside the left post.
There were seven rookies in the Duck lineup, the most yet, and one of them was Shtalenkov. His status, though, is a little misleading since he is 29. He played in Russia until 1992 and helped the Unified team win the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics.
Wilson has almost as much confidence in Shtalenkov as he does in Guy Hebert, and for now, particularly because of the pace of the season and the short conditioning time, he plans to alternate goalies.
If just about everyone is going to be tired, he at least wants a rested man trying to stop the puck.
Left wing Garry Valk, who sprained his left knee during the team’s mini-camp, is still probably another two weeks from playing, meaning the injury might cost him around 10 games of the shortened 48-game season. His 45 points last season ranked third on the team. . . . Right wing John Lilley, who made the team during training camp, was in the lineup after recovering from a broken jaw. He replaced Tim Sweeney, who was fourth on the team in scoring last season but was a scratch, despite being healthy, for the second time in four games.