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Ducks Claim Victory After a 2-2 Draw

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Good hockey, bad hockey, mediocre hockey. The Mighty Ducks didn’t particularly care how they looked Saturday against the St. Louis Blues at the Kiel Center.

The Ducks desperately wanted a victory, didn’t get one, but weren’t too broken up about it. After all, a 2-2 tie against the Blues gave them a 3-3-3 record and a six-game unbeaten streak to end October.

They might be calling for the coach’s head after such a start in places like Detroit or Dallas, where nothing short of a Stanley Cup championship will do. But the Ducks have never been so good after their first nine games.

Indeed, October was a cathartic month for a franchise desperate to return to solid ground after a rocky stretch that began when Ron Wilson was fired as coach May 20, 1997, and continued with a 26-43-13 record last season under Pierre Page.

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So, if the Ducks squandered a two-goal lead Saturday and looked like marathon runners staggering toward the finish line, well, at least they managed to hold on for a tie.

“Any time you don’t lose, it’s a good thing,” observed right wing Teemu Selanne, stating the obvious after the Ducks extended their unbeaten streak to 3-0-3, their longest stretch without a loss since going 5-0-2 to end the 1996-97 season. “We’ll take the point. It’s going to be important later on.”

The Ducks might have gained two points for a victory instead of one for a tie, but fatigue seemed to be a factor in losing their lead.

Selanne, who scored at 17:58 of the first period, and Paul Kariya, who scored at 4:07 of the second, gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead. Goaltender Guy Hebert was superb from start of finish, stopping 43 of 45 shots.

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But down the stretch, the offense sputtered and the defense wasn’t as sound as it could have been.

Right wing Scott Young, a former Duck who signed with the Blues as a free agent during the off-season, scored at 14:51 of the second period and defenseman Al MacInnis tied the score at 8:24 of the third.

“If we could have gone through the second period up, 2-0, we might have made it through the third [and won],” Coach Craig Hartsburg said. “They kept coming at us, kept pushing. We didn’t have the legs to push back.”

Blame for that must go to the Dallas Stars, who skated the Ducks to the brink of exhaustion in a 3-3 tie Friday. St. Louis did not play Friday, but defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 3-1, Thursday at the Kiel Center.

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“It was a good tie,” Selanne said. “We played a hard game [Friday] night. We didn’t get into the [St. Louis] hotel until 3 o’clock in the morning.”

A bit of pluck helped get the Ducks through the game’s first 30 minutes with the lead Saturday. Both Duck goals against St. Louis were scored because of the same sort of persistence that enabled them to score twice in the game’s final minute and tie Dallas.

First, Steve Rucchin refused to be knocked off the puck as he skated toward St. Louis goalie Grant Fuhr. With defenders badgering him, Rucchin got the puck to Selanne, who lifted a backhander into the net.

Then, Kariya swiped the puck from St. Louis defenseman Chris McAlpine, turned and faced a helpless Fuhr. Kariya’s forechecking paid off when he slipped the puck between Fuhr’s legs for a 2-0 Duck lead.

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Hebert didn’t have much of a chance to stop either St. Louis goal.

Young had an almost open net after Geoff Courtnall found him with a cross-ice pass. MacInnis’ slap shot, said to be the best in the NHL, found its way through traffic in front and past Hebert.

“I was just going to go down and let it hit me,” Hebert said of MacInnis’ blast, his sixth goal this season. "[But] I couldn’t find it until I saw it go by me.”

Still, the Ducks couldn’t be upset about gaining ties against Dallas and St. Louis on this two-game trip.

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Friday’s tie against Dallas ended a nine-game losing streak at Reunion Arena. Saturday’s tie against St. Louis gave the Ducks a 2-0-2 record in their last four games at the Kiel Center.

“All in all, it was a good point for us,” Hartsburg said.


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