There hasn't been such a scent of smoked duck since the first game in franchise history.
The Mighty Ducks--the new, improved version?--looked nearly as bad in the 90th game of their existence Tuesday night as they did in their first, losing to St. Louis, 7-2, the identical score by which they lost to Detroit back on Oct. 8, 1993.
Not since that very first night had they given up seven goals in a game. This time they gave up seven in the first 40 minutes and allowed five in the second period alone--two within 22 seconds of each other and the whole handful in a 5 minute 4 second barrage.
Goalie Guy Hebert said the Ducks were like "a sinking ship going down" and left wing Stu Grimson called the Blues "a faceless mob that kept coming at us."
The game, played before 17,381 in the new Kiel Center, featured an atrocious performance by a team that built its reputation and success last season on disciplined defense. The Ducks made repeated giveaways, hardly got the puck out of their own end in the first period and didn't manage a shot until 7:30 had elapsed in the first period.
"A lot of our young players got overwhelmed, and our veterans got caught making the same mistakes the rookies did," Wilson said. "We didn't get much leadership and most of of our players didn't compete. We're not playing the way we have in the past. We got behind the eight ball early and a couple of breaks didn't go our way and then you try to take shortcuts and they blow up in your face."
Veteran Tom Kurvers, known for his offensive skills rather than his defense, was on the ice for three of the Blues' seven goals. Bobby Dollas, one of the team's most dependable defensemen, was on the ice for three of the goals, one of which came on a power play.
"We didn't have a good game," Kurvers said. "It went in hurry. We didn't have a lot of composure."
Hebert faced 34 shots--twice stopping Esa Tikkanen on breakaways--before Duck Coach Ron Wilson gave him the third period off in an act of mercy. Tikkanen, who had a stellar performance, still had two goals and an assist. Brett Hull scored his fifth goal of the season and Craig Janney, whom Coach Mike Keenan had benched for two games, returned to the lineup and contributed two assists.
"It certainly wasn't all Guy's fault," Wilson said. "He held us in there for a while."
Hebert said the game "was kind of like being in a shark tank. It got to the point where if I didn't make a clean stop and cover up, two or three guys would be right there whacking away at the rebound."
"It's like the coach is saying, 'Listen, you've suffered enough tonight,' " Hebert admitted. "Ironically I don't think I played that poor a game, and I gave up seven goals in two periods."
Adding indignity to the loss was the fact that the Ducks didn't even face goalie Curtis Joseph, the Blues' top man who is out with a groin pull. They were held to two goals by rookie Geoff Sarjeant, who got his first NHL victory. They also allowed a former Duck to stick it to them when Bill Houlder got an assist on rookie Ian LaPerriere's goal.
The Ducks' rookies finally faltered, with Valeri Karpov making the poor pass that Adam Creighton picked off to score the Blues' first goal, and finishing the game a minus-four. Paul Kariya was a minus-three, even though he assisted on Joe Sacco's goal in the second period. Rookie John Lilley scored the Ducks' other goal, at 17:47 of the third, preventing the margin of defeat from tying the franchise record.
The Ducks' new offensive skill is proving infectious--and it's making Wilson and the goalies feel ill.
"Unfortunately we've been giving up quite a few shots," Hebert said. "We've got that new offensive element, and guys see Paul and Val and Patrik Carnback and Tony Semenov and some of our muckers and guys who go in the corners think they're going to be more creative. We're getting away from setting zone traps and playing a more boring style game."