Ducks Enjoy Happy Ending

Times Staff Writer

This was survival of the semi-fittest.

There was no rhyme or reason, let alone pattern, to the King-Mighty Duck game Wednesday night, just raw emotional moments.

The Ducks had the final one, which may have kept their season from taking on water. Petr Sykora circled from behind the net and knocked in an Adam Oates pass at 16 minutes 35 seconds of the third period. A few stressful minutes later, the Ducks had a 6-5 victory that gave their fans, the minority among the sellout crowd of 17,174 at the Arrowhead Pond, the last laugh ... or sigh of relief.

Sure, the Ducks blew a 3-0 first-period lead. And, yes, they stood around and watched the Kings go through a 20-minute shooting drill in the second period. Oh, and falling behind, 5-3, in the third period appeared rather ominous for their psyche.

"Just a thumb twiddler, huh?" Duck center Steve Rucchin said, snorting a laugh. "It was looking pretty bleak for us, like the Kings had our number again. Hopefully we can build on this enthusiasm."

This might have been two 90-pounders kicking sand on each other, or a defining moment for both teams.

The Ducks got goals from their headliners. Paul Kariya and Rucchin each had two. Kariya also had two assists and Rucchin one. The Kings got some of theirs from the chorus line. Brad Norton, Steve Heinze and Joe Corvo all had goals

This had similarities to the last meeting of these two middle-of-the-pack teams. In that one, the Kings blew a two-goal lead in the third period, then rallied to win.

This time, the spoils belong to the Ducks. The victory ended a nine-game winless streak against the Kings. More importantly, it put the Ducks into eighth place in the Western Conference. They seem to be making a move, with a 5-1-1-1 record in their last eight games against Western Conference teams.

The Kings, meanwhile, were left dangling. They are 3-11-0-1 since beating the Ducks on Dec. 19. With enough injuries to fill a hospital ward -- defenseman Tomas Zizka was the eighth rookie to play for the Kings this season -- they are in danger of falling out of the playoff race. They are seven points behind the Ducks.

"For us, it's a game that we lost after feeling like we were in a great position," King Coach Andy Murray said. "We were ahead by two goals in the third period and we didn't get it done."

It became undone quickly. Rucchin jammed in his own rebound at 11:19. Marc Chouinard chipped in a rebound off a Matt Cullen shot at 12:14.

Sykora then made a solid effort to get in position for the winning goal.

"We came back from three goals down, score five goals and take a

The relief was just as intense on the Duck side.

"It was an exciting game, but we certainly do not want to make it like this every night," Kariya said. "To get a win like this can only help us down the line."

The Kings seemed overmatched by the Ducks at the start, falling behind, 3-0. But they turned the game during a six-minute stretch in the second period.

Goals by Norton, Corvo and Heinze tied the score, with Heinze's goal coming on a shot from behind the net that went off goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, then deflected off the stick of Duck defenseman Keith Carney.

Norton then set up the go-ahead score, by playing the pacifist, refusing to drop his gloves when Mike Brown came at him for a fight. Brown got the penalty and, moments later, Jaroslav Modry fired a shot that hit Ziggy Palffy in the midsection then went into the net for a 4-3 lead at 13:04.

"That game was emotionally tough," Giguere said. "That's not an ideal game and you certainly don't enjoy one like that. But it's a victory and everyone in this room will take it."

There seemed no need for hand wringing in the first period. The Ducks dominated, holding the Kings to three shots and none after the first two minutes.

Kariya scored the first two goals. First, he picked up the puck at the Ducks' blue line and darted up ice, then managed to tuck a shot into the net as Dmitry Yushkevich was harassing him from behind.

Three minutes later, Kariya put in a rebound for a power-play goal.

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