A Mighty Nice Start : Kariya’s Goal Ices Win Over Coyotes


They wore white, thousand upon thousand of Mighty Duck fans, and they twirled and swirled their white towels until they turned the stands at the Pond into what Duck goalie Guy Hebert called “a sea of white.”

After 296 games of sometimes brilliant, sometimes dreary hockey, the Duck fans roared their approval at the first Stanley Cup playoff game in the team’s four-year history Wednesday as the Ducks beat the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-2, in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

“That first standing ovation when we came out on the ice was kind of chilling,” Hebert said. “It’s been four long years to get that first one. I can’t say enough about how the fans reacted. They were great.”


It was playoff hockey--a tight and hard-hitting game, filled with skill and decided finally by the goaltending of Hebert, who protected a one-goal lead for the final 20 minutes.

Hebert made 29 saves, never really able to catch his breath until Paul Kariya, headed for the empty net on a breakaway, was hauled down by onetime Duck Oleg Tverdovsky with 47 seconds left. Kariya was awarded the goal--his second of the game--because of the rule governing such fouls on breakaways with the goalie pulled. Teemu Selanne also scored two goals.

“It was electrifying,” Duck defenseman Bobby Dollas said. “I’ve heard loud crowds before, but when it’s your own . . . I was sitting there with goose bumps.”

The Coyotes momentarily appeared to have tied the score with 4:45 left when the red light went on behind the Duck net. But referee Paul Devorski had already blown his whistle, and even the Coyotes’ Mike Gartner agreed it was “the right call.”

The Phoenix players, to a man, dismissed it as just one game.

“We have to play better,” Jeremy Roenick said. “There are going to be emotional highs and lows. Obviously it was a big lift that they got the first game, but it’s far from over.”

The game was never in control until the final minute. The Ducks led, 2-0, after the first period. Selanne scored on a five-on-three power play--the Ducks also thwarted a Phoenix five-on-three--and Kariya scored the other.


Roenick scored 3:27 into the second to make it 2-1, and the Ducks threatened to pull away when Selanne made it 3-1.

Hebert stopped a breakaway attempt by Keith Tkachuk, the NHL’s leading goal-scorer during the regular season with 52 goals, but at 16:48 of the second, Tkachuk was credited with a goal after deflecting Teppo Numminen’s power-play shot.

Hebert did the rest, even after Phoenix pulled goalie Nikolai Khabibulin for an extra attacker with 1:03 left.

Perhaps three-quarters of the crowd of 17,174 wore white--T-shirts, golf shirts, hockey jerseys--just as Ron Wilson had asked, trying to create a tradition.

He disavows it, but he’s also stealing a tradition from the Coyote franchise, which used to have whiteouts in Winnipeg. The Coyote team was planning one of its own, and is supposed to give away 15,000 white T-shirts in the first game in Phoenix.

“It’s not like someone has exclusive rights to it,” Wilson said. “Now the fans have a challenge: Who can do it better?”


“It was great,” Selanne said. “But there are still some who didn’t wear white.”

“I noticed a few slackers,” Wilson said.

It was a game that hinged largely on a trade that happened more than a year ago, when the Ducks acquired Teemu Selanne in a deal with the Winnipeg Jets--now the Coyotes--sending them Tverdovsky along with another former first-round pick, Chad Kilger.

Selanne was largely the measure of the Coyotes’ undoing Wednesday, scoring two goals as the Ducks’ top line scored all four even though their unsung-hero-of-a-center, Steve Rucchin, sat out because of back spasms.



Rucchin watched from the trainer’s room. C4


Rychel hasn’t forgotten last local playoff run. C6