The Mighty Ducks didn't get shut out this time, merely blown out.
They made great strides in the art of scoring during their 6-3 loss to St. Louis in front of 19,115 at the Kiel Center on Tuesday night.
When a team has just been shut out in back-to-back games, even one goal is a big deal, much less three.
When Bob Corkum scored at 8:44 of the second period, it was the Ducks' first goal in their last 171 minutes 20 seconds. Stephan Lebeau scored midway through the third period and Oleg Tverdovsky added one more in the final two minutes, but by then the points were moot--except to the Ducks.
"I think any time we score a goal, it's going to help our confidence no matter whether it's in a win or a loss," Corkum said. "This team struggles to score goals, so every goal is always a big goal."
Corkum's goal made the score 2-1, and the Ducks were actually in the game against the Blues. But by three minutes into the third period, they trailed, 6-1, and another loss was on the way.
Defenseman Bobby Dollas knows the public isn't going to see it this way, but he was encouraged.
"I don't care what anybody says," he said. "There's a silver lining. I know when you give up six goals, I know it looks bad, but I thought we played a hell of a hockey game.
"I thought we played with them or even outplayed them. On their power play, a couple of guys were in the right place at the right times."
The Blues' Brett Hull scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season--one of them on a power play--and threw in an assist, and Esa Tikkanen had a goal and three assists.
Hull is yet another of the many NHL players who don't enjoy the Ducks' style.
"This was the worst hockey game I've ever been a part of in my life," he said.
Worse even than a 5-0 blowout loss to Chicago Feb. 9?
"It doesn't mean it's a bad game because you lose and it doesn't mean it's a good game because you win," Hull said. "It was boring, ugly, it was terrible. Bouncing off the glass, bouncing off the boards, that's not what I consider hockey."
Hull said there was only one redeeming quality to the game.
"Just that we won."
The Ducks practiced enough confidence-building, three-on-zero rushes the past couple of days to spark their offense, but St. Louis goalie Curtis Joseph was too good for them to beat him. The Ducks' own goalie, Mikhail Shtalenkov, made his first start in five games and wasn't as sharp as he has been, allowing all six goals before Guy Hebert replaced him at 2:49 of the third.
The Ducks' biggest problem--besides scoring goals--might be penalty-killing. Their deficiency is killing them. They're at the bottom of the NHL, killing only 74.2% of their penalties, and they allowed three power-play goals in six chances Tuesday.
"We're not doing the job," said defenseman Robert Dirk. "It takes hard work and discipline and making the right decisions, and we do it for maybe a minute and 30 seconds and then they score a goal.
"Right now we're being passive, and you can't be passive. You have to force the other team to make mistakes. We're letting them shoot where they want to.
"When we get a penalty now, it's demoralizing. Everybody's holding their breath hoping we kill it instead of knowing we will.
"If we can turn around our penalty killing, we can start climbing back out of this and be back in the playoff race."
So why didn't the Mighty Ducks try to trade for high-scoring center Craig Janney, who was acquired by rival San Jose on Monday for defenseman Jeff Norton and a fourth-round draft pick? General Manager Jack Ferreira says he did, making two futile calls to St. Louis General Manager and Coach Mike Keenan, who had no interest. "What can I say if you call a general manager and ask who he likes on your team and he says 'Nobody,' " Ferreira said. . . . Rookie Valeri Karpov, who was sent down to minor league San Diego on Feb. 27 to regain his confidence, has returned to Anaheim and will be available for Thursday's game against Detroit. Karpov had three goals and six points during his six-game stint with San Diego, getting good reviews from Duck management. Karpov was the Ducks' second-leading scorer during the exhibition season, but had only one goal and three points after 14 regular-season games.