IN BRIEF / TECHNOLOGY
Paul Kariya scored one goal. Teemu Selanne skated through the defense setting up another goal. The Mighty Ducks’ power-play efforts resulted in two goals.
There used to be good things around the Arrowhead Pond. Not anymore. Those things added up to a 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks in front of a franchise-low crowd of 9,273 on Wednesday night.
The Ducks gave away a short-handed goal to the Sharks’ Marco Sturm, who later scored on a power play. Selanne, now with the Sharks, bobbed and wove through the Duck defense to set up Marcus Ragnarsson’s second-period goal that broke a 2-2 tie.
The estimated 4,000 to 5,000 actually in attendance at the Pond cheered for Selanne and made their unhappiness with the Ducks obvious. Who could blame them?
Sturm clinched the victory by sticking in a power-play goal at 10:49 of the third period. But it was Selanne’s ice dance that gave the Sharks the lead. He went around three Ducks before centering a pass to Ragnarsson, who was alone in the slot.
Such skills were more than the Ducks could match.
Offense has been an occasional hobby for the Ducks this season. They average a shade over two goals per game, with only Florida and Columbus averaging fewer.
There were two main reasons for the lack of production. Kariya’s 10-game drought, equaling the longest streak of his career, and the Ducks’ power play that could appear on the endangered species list.
Murray’s answer for Kariya was to give him double duty, using him with two lines.
“That will make it more difficult for teams to match up with him,” Murray said.
“What we’re trying to do is he same thing we’ve been trying to do since the start of the season. We want to have greater offensive potential on other lines. We need to get goals from Paul.”
They did, at last. With the Ducks on the power play, Kariya picked up a loose puck in the left faceoff circle and rocketed a shot past Evgeni Nabokov to tie the score, 2-2, at 7:16 of the third period.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, it merely made up for a power-play gaffe in the first period, when Kariya couldn’t control a pass at the blue line. Sturm picked up the loose puck and was off on a breakaway, whipping a shot between Steve Shields’ legs to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
Still, this was Kariya’s first goal since opening night against Boston, ending his goal-less streak at 10 games and 40 consecutive shots on goal. That it came on the power play was a bonus. The Ducks had only one goal on their previous 25 power plays.
Murray has tried tinkering with his top unit, even using enforcers Kevin Sawyer and Denny Lambert on it, hoping that that they could create some tension in front of the net.
“The power play is a priority now,” Murray said. “Our special-team play has to be bigger. We have to make things happen on the power play.”
That was difficult against the Sharks, who entered to the game ranked fourth in the league in penalty killing. The Ducks had chances, but Nabokov was able to turn them away. He stopped 29 of 31 shots.
“Our power play needs to take over,” left wing Jeff Friesen said. “We have to get traffic in front of the net and take shots. We’ve lost time chasing the puck and have to do better entering the zone. You just don’t rim the puck around the boards to rim the puck around. It just makes it tougher on us.”
The Ducks’ best offensive came mostly from their second line, Mike Leclerc, Matt Cullen and Marty McInnis. The trio has nine goals this season.
“We work hard and keep things simple,” McInnis said. “We cycle in the corners and forecheck a lot.”
That produced the Ducks’ first goal midway through the first period. Cullen harassed two Shark players at the blue line, forcing a turnover. Cullen sent a cross-ice pass to Leclerc, whose shot was stopped by Nabokov. Cullen crashed the net and had a gimme waiting, as the puck was sitting in the crease next to Nabokov.
The effort was wasted in a 40-second span later in the period.
The Sharks’ Vincent Damphousse centered a pass to Owen Nolan, who was alone in the right faceoff circle. Nolan’s one-timer tied the score at 16:57. Sturm scored his short-handed goal 40 seconds later.