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In Oldest Arena, It’s Old Hat for Ducks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mighty Ducks walked the storied halls of Maple Leaf Gardens, squeezed into the cramped visitors’ dressing room and donned their uniforms to play their final game at the 67-year-old arena.

Then the Ducks took the ice and were thumped, 4-1, Wednesday by the Toronto Maple Leafs before a sellout crowd of 15,726.

So what else is new?

“This is usually my favorite place to play,” goalie Guy Hebert said. “It’s a great building. I don’t know what it is. We usually play well here and don’t get any results. This was just another case of that.”

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Canadians from coast to coast are counting the days until the Maple Leafs move Feb. 20 into the new Air Canada Centre, waxing nostalgic about the NHL’s oldest arena.

But the Ducks were in no mood to shed a tear about the Maple Leafs’ pending departure from the old barn at the corner of Carlton and Church streets in downtown Toronto.

After all, the Ducks are a feeble 1-6-4 in their short history at Maple Leaf Gardens. Wednesday’s loss at what Duck captain Paul Kariya on Tuesday called “a cathedral of hockey,” was simply more bad news for the Ducks.

They were 5-2-3 in their last 10 games before Wednesday, but playing abysmal hockey in the eyes of Coach Craig Hartsburg.

The Ducks had their moments Wednesday, but couldn’t keep pace with the Maple Leafs. Tie Domi, Fredrik Modin, Yannick Tremblay and Jason Smith scored for Toronto, which improved to 13-2-1 against the Western Conference.

The Ducks failed to get a puck past Maple Leaf goalie Curtis Joseph until Teemu Selanne scored with 13:10 left in the game. Toronto had the game well in hand by then, leading, 4-1, after Selanne’s goal.

It might have made things a bit more interesting if Selanne hadn’t been ruled to have been in the crease when Kariya whistled a one-timer from the slot past Joseph at 17:58 of the first period.

“I’ve got this theory that there are turning points in hockey games,” Hebert said. “That was one of them.”

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Of course, the Ducks might also have been better off if Hebert hadn’t given up a cheap one to the ham-handed Domi only 4:36 into the game.

Domi swept around the net, looking nothing like one of the league’s better enforcers. He pulled up near the left goal post and whipped a low shot that somehow got by Hebert.

“I felt pretty good,” said Hebert, playing again after Dominic Roussel started the last two games and earned his first victory and tie of the season. “I had a lot of energy. I’d like to go back and grab two of ‘em, though. The first goal and the third one. Take those two away and we would have been in a better position at the end.”

The Ducks, as has become their method of operation lately, also could have given Hebert a better performance in front of him.

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The Ducks were outshot, 39-31. It was the fourth consecutive game the Ducks were outshot and the fourth in which they gave up 33 or more shots.

To be sure, they miss the steady play of defenseman Jason Marshall, sidelined for the fourth consecutive game because of a strained left hamstring.

“No doubt it’s affected our defense,” Hebert said. “The last few games, we’ve given up an average of 40 shots. Or close to it anyway. Give a team that many shots a night and the odds begin to go against you.”

However, there were a few signs the Ducks left their listlessness behind in Ottawa, where they began this five-game trip with a 2-2 tie Monday against the Senators.

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The Ducks even managed to control play for long stretches Wednesday against the Maple Leafs. But they got off to a slow start, facing a two-goal deficit after only 13:59.

“We can’t be happy,” Selanne said. “It was one of those games where we learned we have to play 60 minutes if we want to win. We can do a lot better defensively. We can cover the slot better and win more of the battles in our own zone.

“This was still way better than the Ottawa game. Except for the the first 10 minutes we really outplayed [Toronto]. We outplayed them for 50 minutes and that’s a good sign.”


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