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Ducks’ Roll Turns Into an Avalanche : Hockey: Kariya scores twice and leads fast start in 7-3 rout that ends Colorado’s 10-game unbeaten streak.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Colorado Avalanche entered The Pond of Anaheim on Wednesday with the best record in the Western Conference and a 10-game unbeaten streak.

They also came in fresh off a few days of golf at a Rancho Santa Fe resort, getting in a little too much R and R and then getting ripped by the Ducks, 7-3, before 17,174.

It was Colorado’s first loss in a month and only their fourth loss of season.

“I don’t think it was the vacation. It comes down to mental preparation and a number of people weren’t ready tonight,” said Colorado Coach Marc Crawford, whose team hadn’t lost since Oct. 14 against St. Louis. “We have to give the Ducks credit. It shows if you come out prepared and work hard, you can win . . . If you try to just rely on your talent and don’t work, you’re going to lose. If they’re not embarrassed by this performance, I don’t know if they can be.”

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The Ducks don’t look like the same team Denver beat last month.

“We came out flying,” said defenseman Bobby Dollas. “I think we beat one of the best teams in the league. We showed not just this team but every team in the league that you have to play hard against the Ducks because we’re playing great right now.”

The Ducks’ Paul Kariya was two-thirds of the way to a hat trick little more than nine minutes after the opening faceoff. He scored his 14th goal of the season only 1:31 into the game when Steve Rucchin dug the puck out of the corner on a power play and sent it to Kariya as he slid down the slot.

Kariya made the score, 2-0, at 9:07 after Shaun Van Allen chased down the puck in the open ice, then pulled up with a defender on him and fed it to Kariya as he sped down the middle. Kariya picked a spot over Jocelyn Thibault’s left shoulder for his 15th goal--which put him in a group just behind Mario Lemieux, who leads the NHL with 16 goals.

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Kariya is obliterating his pace of last season, when he had five goals and 11 points after 19 games. This season, he has 15 goals and 26 points at the same point. He also has tied the club record with a nine-game point streak.

He had chances for his first hat trick, but was foiled by Thibault on a good chance from close range and later when he stole the puck from a defenseman but shot it into Thibault’s glove.

The Ducks also got a standout performance from left wing Alex Hicks, who at 26 was playing his first NHL game. He finished with two goals and an assist, getting both goals by pursuing the puck with dogged persistence.

After the Hicks scored on the first shot of his first NHL game at 12:25, the Ducks led, 3-0, and the Avalanche players had hardly woken up. They swung their clubs more than their sticks this week and it seemed to show, but the Ducks’ start roused them.

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Scott Young lifted Colorado back into the game by countering Kariya’s showmanship with two goals in the first 5:45 of the second period. Young made the score, 3-2, when he stole the puck from Kariya in Colorado’s zone and then raced to the other end and beat Mikhail Shtalenkov with a shot that hit Shtalenkov’s arm, then eluded him and fell into the net.

Shtalenkov’s start was his first since Oct. 26 and broke a streak of nine starts in a row by Guy Hebert, who has been hot but needed a break to rest “bumps and bruises,” Duck Coach Ron Wilson said.

Shtalenkov was worried about his sharpness. “For goalies, it’s real hard if you haven’t played, because you can’t make a mistake,” he said.

Shtalenkov has been better, but with the Ducks’ barrage, it didn’t matter.

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Bob Corkum expanded the Ducks’ edge to two goals later in the second, and after Colorado’s Adam Foote trimmed it back to one, the Ducks’ Todd Krygier made it 5-3 when Peter Douris’ neutral-zone pass sent him out on a breakaway and he beat Thibault.

The Ducks scored twice in the third, on Rucchin’s deflection of a point shot and Hicks’ second goal.

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Duck Notes

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Rookie center Chad Kilger was a scratched from the lineup for the second time this season.


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