To some, the shortened NHL season must look like a sprint. To Mighty Duck center Bob Corkum, most of it has probably felt like the 20th mile of a marathon.
Corkum led the Ducks with 23 goals last season, but he had only three this year until he scored the Ducks' first two goals Thursday night in a 3-1 victory over Winnipeg at The Pond of Anaheim.
Corkum had scored only one goal in his previous nine games, but he gave the Ducks a lead 1:03 into the game, then broke a 1-1 tie at 15:19 of the third period with his second of the night.
His first goal prompted a fist-pumping celebration, fueled by relief. When Joe Sacco set him up from behind the net for the game-winner, he resembled his old self.
Garry Valk, another player having a disappointing season, provided the final margin with an empty-net goal with 1:16 left after Jet goalie Tim Cheveldae was pulled for an extra attacker. It was Valk's second of the season.
Corkum's frustration has been almost palpable recently. Everything that could go wrong has seemed to. Remember, it was Corkum who inexplicably dislodged the net in the final two minutes against the Kings, giving Dan Quinn the penalty shot that turned a near-victory into a 3-3 tie.
"No doubt I was frustrated," Corkum said. "One thing people don't always know is that you can have a good game without scoring goals. . . . I'm not going to be a 20-goal scorer every year. Maybe I was kidding myself to think I was. All I have to do is go out and be a good forechecker, play defense and work hard."
Corkum was the team's player representative to the union during the lockout, and he admitted at times that he didn't think there would be a season. When it finally began, he wasn't in the best of shape.
"He had a lot of things on his mind," Duck Coach Ron Wilson said. "He was the union rep, and I really think Corky didn't feel there would be a season.
"I said this to Corky the other day, a hockey season is like a marathon, and if you don't prepare for it. . . .
"In the marathon he's running, he sees the pack way ahead of him, and he can't gain on them. A lot of times that gets frustrating. The important thing for Corkum and a lot of our players is to finish the race and not give up.
"Tonight, he did everything. He battled, he was always in the right position, and he scored goals. He's got to accept responsibility. He's got to be accountable for his game. He's been a shadow of his former self. He hasn't been skating, he hasn't been hitting. He's a middle-linebacker type. Imagine a middle linebacker who doesn't hit. He was just standing around."
Corkum scored 1:03 into the game when Valeri Karpov got the puck deep in his own zone and got it up to Corkum, who held the puck, looked off the defenseman and instead of passing to Karpov snapped a shot into the top of the net.
Winnipeg tied the score, 1-1, at 11:15 of the first when Alexei Zhamnov worked a perfect two-on-one with Dallas Drake against the Ducks' Dave Karpa.
Otherwise, the game wasn't much, especially for the first two periods. Winnipeg and Anaheim are the bottom two teams in the Western Conference, and both average less than three goals a game.
Duck goalie Guy Hebert was under siege early in the third, and had to make 15 of his 26 saves in the period--partly because his teammates weren't doing a good job of clearing rebounds. They allowed a flurry of four tries within seconds, with Hebert making three saves before the fourth shot went wide.