Ducks Not Too Blue About Overtime Loss

Times Staff Writer

There were thunderstorms booming outside the Savvis Center and silver linings obvious inside.

The Mighty Ducks did have a right to bluster Thursday, even after their 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues in front of 18,468.

The point earned by the Ducks set a franchise record for points in a season with 86. It also wrapped up a six-games-in-nine-days stretch, in which the Ducks picked up eight out of a possible 12 points.

Plenty of happy news to go around.

"It doesn't surprise me a bit," said center Steve Rucchin, who has been with the Ducks since 1994-95. "There is more talent on this team, more discipline to play a system, than on any team I have played on."

Yet, not to rain on the Duck parade to the playoffs, there were downsides. The last being when Pavol Demitra scored his second goal by tucking a shot between goalie Martin Gerber and the post 2 minutes 22 seconds into overtime, giving the Blues their eighth victory in the last 10 games.

That took a little luster off the record for points.

"It's nice, we've had a big improvement, but no one is going to be thinking about that too much," Duck captain Paul Kariya said.

What may be on their minds is a string of slow starts. The Ducks have trailed in the second period or earlier in five consecutive games. They have gotten a victory, tie or overtime loss in four of those games, including Thursday's with second-period goals by Adam Oates and Steve Thomas. Gerber, the Ducks' backup goalie, seemed a sure bet to make the tie stand, having given up two or fewer goals in his last 10 starts. But there was nothing he could do after stopping an Al MacInnis' point shot. Demitra, hanging out at the left post, scooped up the rebound, feigned a move behind the net, then stopped and stuck the puck past Gerber.

Trailing, 2-0, Oates scored the Ducks' first goal, banging in a rebound for a power-play goal 1:15 into the second period. Thomas then evened the score when he knocked down a poor clearing attempt by MacInnis and whipped a shot past Chris Osgood 11:50 into the period

"You usually don't get an opportunity like that from Al MacInnis," said Thomas, who has four goals and six points in six games since being acquired from Chicago. "It's great that we have guys on this team with the talent to put pucks in the net to make these comebacks. But we haven't played very well at the start of games.

"The whole season is about getting ready for the playoffs. Game 1 of the season is preparation for Game 1 of the playoffs. You want your team playing at its best when that first game gets here."

The Ducks stumbled at the start Thursday, although there were extenuating circumstances.

They had just killed off a five-on-three situation, but just as Thomas stepped back onto the ice, Doug Weight let fly a shot from the blue line that beat Gerber for a 1-0 lead 3:53 into the game.

Late in the period, the Blues' Scott Mellanby was behind the net and had his pass deflect off Duck defenseman Kurt Sauer's skate and go over the net. Demitra was waiting to tap it out of the air and into the net for a 2-0 lead 14:33 into the game.

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