All Stars Sparkle for Ducks


The Mighty Ducks reached the breaking point not once, not twice, but three times Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. But a funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable third-period collapse.

Instead of crumbling, instead of squandering three two-goal leads, the Ducks persevered in a 4-3 victory in front of 16,061 at McNichols Arena.

That’s consecutive victories for the Ducks for the first time since late November.

And that’s consecutive losses for Colorado for the first time since mid-November.

No one in the Duck dressing room at game’s end was suggesting they can catch the Pacific Division-leading Avalanche. After their first victory in seven games at McNichols Arena, the fourth-place Ducks still trail the Avalanche by 22 points.


But it was still a victory worth savoring--at least until hosting the Kings on Saturday.

“Coming in here and beating the Avalanche is big for us,” said winger Warren Rychel, a member of Colorado’s 1996 Stanley Cup championship team. “But we don’t care who we beat. We need points. This is a good sign for us. Hopefully, we’ve turned this thing around.”

It was difficult to find fault with any part of the Ducks’ game Thursday. And that has not been the case so many times this season.

The Ducks received contributions from the usual sources and some from unexpected ones.

Left wing Paul Kariya scored one goal and had two assists for his second consecutive big game. He had three goals and two assists in the Ducks’ 8-3 rout Wednesday over the Florida Panthers.

And there was more.

Right wing Teemu Selanne had three assists. Defenseman Dmitri Mironov scored a second-period goal for his 200th NHL point. Rychel and center Steve Rucchin also scored.

And backup goaltender Mikhail Shtalenkov, playing in his 100th NHL game, won for the first time since Dec. 22.

“It was a big game for a guy who hadn’t played in a while,” Coach Pierre Page said of Shtalenkov, who hadn’t started since Dec. 27. “We were hoping Colorado would forget about us because we’re sandwiched between two games against Dallas.”


Certainly, that might have been the case during a lackluster first period for Colorado.

The Avalanche seemed to be nursing a hangover from a physical pounding the Central Division-leading Stars administered in a 3-2 victory Wednesday at Dallas. The teams play again Saturday in Denver.

Rucchin scored 36 seconds into the game, Rychel scored 58 seconds into the second and the Ducks had their first two-goal lead. It didn’t last long, but the Ducks refused to crumble.

Colorado dominated the second and third periods, but the Ducks kept counterpunching against goalie Patrick Roy.

Colorado’s Joe Sakic scored at 14:45 of the second period to cut the lead to 2-1, but Mironov pushed the advantage back to two goals 1:07 later. Adam Deadmarsh scored 2:43 into the third to trim the lead to 3-2, but Kariya scored about 10 minutes later.

Aaron Miller scored with 3:02 left to bring the Avalanche within 4-3. But the Ducks didn’t crack as they did in a 3-2 overtime loss Jan. 12 to the Kings.

“We worked to make sure we didn’t run around,” Page said. “We wanted to play good positional hockey.”


The Duck defense held strong in the final minutes and Shtalenkov preserved perhaps their most important victory of the season.

“I’m excited, no question,” Rucchin said. “This is a big confidence booster for us. It’s really boosted our spirits. We were kind of flat before the All-Star break, but Paul and Teemu came out with a new fire.

“They’ve done a great job of leading us.”

Rucchin got no argument from Colorado Coach Marc Crawford, who will coach Kariya on Team Canada at next month’s Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

“Tonight was a case where two superstars beat us,” Crawford said of Kariya and Selanne. “Their top two players were the best players on the ice. When they have games like that, then that team is in the game.”