Thousands of jagged white shark's teeth bobbed menacingly among the crowd of 17,190 Saturday night at San Jose Arena, but the Mighty Ducks exposed them for what they were.
Torn apart by the Sharks last season, the Mighty Ducks drew blood for the first time in seven meetings Saturday, beating San Jose, 6-3.
The Sharks' "teeth" that fans carried out with them afterward were just an inexpensive giveaway--triangular pieces of paper.
Arturs Irbe, who shut out the Kings on Friday, allowed five goals before Peter Douris scored an empty-netter with two seconds left after Irbe was pulled for an extra attacker.
"I tell you what, it didn't matter who it was, the whole team was in need of a victory tonight, but it was even sweeter that it came against the Sharks because of what they did to us last year," said left wing Garry Valk. The Ducks hadn't won since beating the Kings, 3-2, on Feb. 5.
Mikhail Shtalenkov started in goal for the Ducks and faltered quickly, allowing a goal 31 seconds into the game and giving up three on the Sharks' first 11 shots. Duck Coach Ron Wilson sent in Guy Hebert at 13:19 of the first, and Hebert made 18 saves and shut out the Sharks the rest of the way. When San Jose beat the Ducks last season, Todd Krygier wasn't part of it. Krygier, acquired from Washington on Feb. 2 for a fourth-round draft pick, brought the Ducks from behind with two second-period goals--including the eventual game-winner.
"I guess last year we outplayed them four times and lost the last two," Krygier said. "I think it was important to come out and set a tone after last year."
Krygier tied the score, 3-3, after Stephan Lebeau flipped the puck into the Ducks' offensive zone. Krygier chased it down, and when Irbe came out of the net and went down too early, Krygier went around him and put the puck into the net.
He gave the Ducks a 4-3 lead at 15:47 of the second when he scored on his second attempt on a loose puck in the slot.
Douris also scored twice, and Lebeau had three points, assisting on both of Krygier's goals and scoring his first of the season in the first period. The Ducks won by switching from their 1-4 forechecking scheme, which clogs the neutral zone, to a neutral zone trap, the tactic so many teams complain about.
Plus, Wilson finally scratched an itch that's been bothering him for some time, striking veteran defenseman Tom Kurvers from the lineup. Kurvers, acquired last summer to bolster a power play that was the NHL's worst last season, has been a disaster defensively--and the power play still ranks last in the league. Worse, Kurvers had been on the ice for all six shorthanded goals against the Duck power play, and has a plus-minus rating of minus nine.
"You can't be minus-nine at this level and have one goal for and six against on the power play and deserve a spot on the power play or even in the lineup," Wilson said. "Unless things change, he won't be in for a while, but believe me, things can change rapidly."
The team hadn't scored a power-play goal in the last seven games, going 0 for 30. Ironically, with power-play specialist Kurvers out, the Ducks broke an 0-for-31 streak late in the period when Anatoli Semenov was credited with a goal that cut San Jose's lead to 3-2 at 17:49.
Kurvers said he didn't have to miss a game to get Wilson's message.
"The message has been clear for a while," he said. "The struggles on the power play have been notable. I don't have any profound reasons or excuses.
"I've been scratched before. You've got to bounce back. The bottom line is nothing I can say can convince anybody. You have to show it on the ice."
There was another reason for the outcome. The Sharks' Igor Larionov didn't play because of a groin strain. He had 12 points in six games against the Ducks last year.
"I had to be the happiest guy in San Jose and maybe all of California when I found out he wasn't playing," Wilson said. "He's been a thorn in our side."
The slash by Duck forward Tim Sweeney that broke the finger of Calgary's Phil Housley on Feb. 9 will cost Sweeney about $14,500. He was to make about $171,000 in the shortened season, but the NHL gave him a four-game suspension without pay and a $500 fine on Friday. "If he didn't break his finger, I don't think anything would have come of it," Sweeney said. "It did look bad in slow motion, but I was off-balance. It wasn't above the waist of anything . . . If you sent in every tape of a hack like mine, you'd do it every game."
* PENGUINS LOSE
Hartford is the first team to beat Pittsburgh this season. C4