The speed and spunk of Paul Kariya and the inspiration he lends to Teemu Selanne finally lifted the Mighty Ducks out of their funk Friday night and the Ducks broke their eight-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks in front of 17,112 at the Pond.
Selanne won it for the Ducks with his third goal of the game, a power-play goal with less than five minutes to play that came only minutes after his game-tying second goal of the game off a tremendous pass from Kariya.
It was the 11th hat trick of Selanne's career, his third as a Duck, and lifted his goal total this season to nine.
It also lifted the Ducks out of the NHL's basement. They no longer have the worst record in the league. That distinction now belongs to Pittsburgh, which is 2-9-0.
"Losing is so bad," Selanne said. "When you lose night after night, you lose your confidence. Every player loses his confidence."
The Ducks celebrated, but not excessively.
"We have won only two games this season," Selanne said. "Tonight it was my turn to score but the defense was most important. My three goals don't help if we score three and they score five."
Kariya, in only his second game of the season after returning from an abdominal injury, made a spectacular play to set up Selanne's game-tying goal at 12:53 of the third.
Kariya outsprinted the Sharks from the neutral zone all the way across the goal line off to the left of San Jose net to beat the Sharks to Duck defenseman Darren Van Impe's long lead pass. Kariya flung the puck back behind him, between the legs of Shark defenseman Doug Bodger and onto the stick of Selanne, who had beaten Todd Gill to the front of the net.
"A week ago, without Paul in there, Teemu probably would have been coasting to the net," Duck Coach Ron Wilson said.
Without Kariya, Selanne was a marked man who sometimes became frustrated.
"When you have two studs on the ice, that's twice as many the other team has to watch," Wilson said.
"Paul especially helps my game," he said. "I get way more room. We both get more room. I'm very excited to play with him."
The collaboration of Kariya and Selanne helped set up the game-winner--their first power play goal in seven games. The Ducks went on a power play after Bodger pushed Kariya into the net as he cut in on goalie Kelly Hrudey trying to take a pass from Selanne.
The penalty gave the Ducks a man advantage, and Selanne wound up from the left circle, his shot eluding Hrudey without being deflected by Fredrik Olausson, who had his stick at the ready.
It was an emotional final 20 minutes for the Ducks, who were exhorted and berated by Wilson on the bench before a power play with just under 15 minutes left. Wilson called a timeout and yelled so loudly his words could be heard in the top row of the arena.
Like so many Duck-Shark games in the past, this one was rough and sometimes dirty.
San Jose's Andrei Nazarov was assessed a match penalty in the first period after his hit on Jeremy Stevenson caused Stevenson to crumple to the ice with a severe right ankle sprain.
The worse offense--and more inexplicable--was Anaheim forward Roman Oksiuta's retaliatory kick at Shark defenseman Bodger after being cross-checked to the ice. Oksiuta also was given a match penalty, but his cost the Ducks a five-on-three opportunity.
San Jose, which fell to 5-6-3, has made an unexpected turnaround this season by gambling on older players, some coming off injuries that could have ended their careers.
The one who left his mark Friday was Al Iafrate, who scored two goals--his first since missing the last two seasons because of multiple knee surgeries. Iafrate, once known for having the hardest shot in the NHL, hadn't scored a goal since the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs with the Boston Bruins. It was his first regular-season goal since April 14, 1994.