White Lightning Burns Ducks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Another playoff first for the Mighty Ducks: Their first loss.

"I hope no one was kidding themselves about 16-0," goalie Guy Hebert said after the Ducks' 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Sunday at America West Arena in Game 3 of a best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series.

The Ducks won twice in Anaheim, but when the series shifted to Phoenix on Sunday, the tide turned. It was a tide of white--16,210 fans who showed the Anaheim fans how that little white-out trick is done.

One tick past 14 minutes into the game, Phoenix had a 3-0 lead.

In the Ducks' four-year history, they have overcome a 3-0 lead to win precisely once, against Hartford on Jan. 14, 1994.

"We thought we could come back, but we couldn't," Teemu Selanne said. "I think we had a bad start and that cost us the game."

Phoenix is throwing all it can at the Ducks' Selanne and Paul Kariya, and they came about as close to stopping them as they can Sunday. This time the game's stars were the Coyotes' Darrin Shannon, who had two goals, and Cliff Ronning, with three assists.

Selanne was not only shut out, he was held to a single shot-on-goal, and that one didn't come until the third period. Kariya had seven shots, but goalie Nikolai Khabibulin stopped him on six, though Kariya beat him to score the Ducks' only goal, on a power play with 1:11 left in the first that made the score 3-1.

"Their checkers did a really good job and we played against two good defensemen," Selanne said. "Personally, somehow I didn't feel very good. These afternoon games, I'm a little sleepy somehow. There are no excuses.

"The one shot tells you, pretty much. Sometimes you get one shot and still make a lot of good plays. But there was not much room today. They played really good."

Khabibulin was closer to his best game than he was in Games 1 and 2, and made 30 saves--stopping Kariya's quick-release shot from close range several times.

Kariya said he and Selanne have to adjust to the smothering defense by playing more simply at times, dumping the puck instead of trying to carry it in the zone.

"You've got to play well on the power play, and when you get chances, you've got to bury them," he said. "I had a couple of even-strength chances and didn't score. You're not going to get seven or eight chances to score like we did in the regular season. Now, you'll get two or three chances. You've got to bury them."

Fans in Phoenix got to celebrate the first Stanley Cup playoff game in the history of the city, and they were ready. Just about everybody but the vendors followed the team's request to wear white--though it helped that 15,000 of them got free T-shirts at the door.

"The fans came out and supported us, and that sea of white, that's playoff hockey," the Coyotes' Jeremy Roenick said. "It was almost like you got tears of joy in your eyes at the beginning of the game from everybody standing behind us."

Phoenix scored 1:18 into the game when Shannon cut to the net and re-directed Ronning's pass. Shannon had only 11 goals all season, but scored his second of the game less than eight minutes later, deflecting Deron Quint's point shot after a failed clearing attempt for a 2-0 lead only 8:50 into the game.

The Coyotes didn't get enough in the first two games from Keith Tkachuk, who is their captain and led the NHL with 52 goals. But he was superb Sunday and he scored his third goal of the series at 14:01 of the first on a deflection after taking the puck from the Ducks' Warren Rychel.

After a scoreless second period that Wilson said might have been the Ducks' best so far in the series, the Ducks almost got another chance when Brian Bellows picked up a rebound off of Khabibulin's right pad and put it in the net. If it had counted, the Ducks would have trailed by a goal with more than 15 minutes left.

It was yet another disallowed goal in a series becoming known for disallowed goals--against both teams--and five-on-three power plays. (Both teams failed on two-man advantages Sunday.)

"It was frustrating, because the puck wasn't in his pads," Bellows said. "[Referee Terry Gregson] admitted it. He said he blew the whistle too fast. He was honest. . . . after I was yelling at him for about 15 seconds. It's almost the worst thing for you to hear, though."

It was a bad call, but it wasn't changing, and when Mike Gartner scored with 4:32 to play, it was really over.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

Mighty Ducks vs. Phoenix

SERIES AT A GLANCE

* Game 1: Mighty Ducks, 4-2

* Game 2: Mighty Ducks, 4-2

* Game 3: Phoenix, 4-1

* Tuesday: at Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.

* Thursday: at Mighty Ducks, 7:30 p.m.

* Sunday: at Phoenix, noon*

* April 29: at Mighty Ducks, 7:30 p.m.*

* if necessary

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