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Ducks Do a Little Bit of Everything to Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

No, it wasn’t the the way the game was meant to be played.

But it was the way the game was meant to be watched.

The Mighty Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators, 4-3, Monday night at the Corel Centre in a game that had many of the things that can make hockey spectacular--a third-period penalty shot, an overtime game-winner, failure and redemption, breakaways left and right, a goaltender’s assist.

The Ducks’ Steve Rucchin handed Ottawa a penalty shot with 2:54 left in regulation when he gave away the puck at his blue line and then hauled down Alexandre Daigle in front of the net.

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But Daigle missed, not even requiring Guy Hebert to make a save. And eight minutes later, Rucchin cleared his name when crashed the net and pushed Paul Kariya’s rebound past Ottawa goalie Ron Tugnutt with 27 seconds left in overtime.

The victory broke a three-game losing streak and sparked delirium on the ice, though not so much for Rucchin.

“I think I was more relieved than excited,” he said. “Sitting on the bench, I knew I had made a really bad play.

“I was pretty fortunate Guy pulled me out of that. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have had a chance to redeem myself.”

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Hebert came out of the net and feinted a challenge at Daigle, then pulled back, and Daigle’s forehand went well wide.

“I just wanted to come out and challenge him. The ice was getting pretty bad, and that was to his disadvantage,” Hebert said. “I didn’t expect him to deke. He took a shot and it went wide. He probably wasn’t very happy with it. I was.”

Daigle’s attempt was only the 12th penalty shot in the NHL this season, but the second against the Ducks. Washington’s Peter Bondra was unsuccessful against Mikhail Shtalenkov on Dec. 13, also missing wide. Of 12 penalty shots this season, four have succeeded.

“I’ve got to be honest, there should be more penalty shots in hockey,” Wilson said after the game. “If they called it the way it is in the rule book, there’d be one a week. That’s the most exciting play in sports, a hockey penalty shot. Not in soccer, where 95% of the time it’s in the goal. In hockey, it’s only about 30%.

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“You’ve got their best player, their Paul Kariya, coming in on a penalty shot.”

Easier to talk about how great it was after he missed, coach?

“Oh, I was ready to strangle Steve Rucchin--I mean, not in a negative way,” Wilson said.

Until the late going, the game was not a thing of beauty.

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The Ducks led, 2-0, 7:06 into the first after goals 14 seconds apart by Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne (Selanne’s goal, his 20th of the season, broke an 0 for 15 power-play streak).

They coughed up that lead, but still led, 3-2, going into the third after a goal by Joe Sacco, whose speed burned defenseman Wade Redden on a play started by Hebert. Hebert earned his third NHL assist on the goal. (The others were both with St. Louis.) Garry Valk had the first assist.

Ottawa came back again though, when Bruce Gardiner deflected Redden’s point shot at 12:41 of the third, capping a game in which the Ducks made too many turnovers and too many “soft plays.”

“I was doing a lot of swearing tonight,” Wilson said. “We were lucky to get one point, let alone two.”

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The last line of defense meant to stop them from getting any points was Tugnutt, one of four former Ducks who played for Ottawa.

“It was a tough game,” said Tugnutt, who stopped Kariya on a breakaway in the final minute of regulation.

But Kariya came back to haunt him at the end, skating swiftly into the zone and taking a pass from Selanne with about 30 seconds left in overtime.

“I just watched the video,” Tugnutt said. “It was one of Paul’s many wrist shots at the net. It went off my stick and out off Jason York’s skate and onto Rucchin’s stick. Jason kind of bumped into me and Rucchin went to the far side, off my glove and in.

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“From my standpoint, when the penalty shot didn’t go in, I felt I’d have to make another save.”

He did, but in the end, he made one too few.


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