Ducks Get a Low Rate of Return in 4-1 Loss

Times Staff Writer

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere returned to the ice Saturday, usually a good sign for the Mighty Ducks. But it wasn't this time.

Keith Carney, the Ducks' top defenseman, returned to the lineup, but he didn't play that way.

These were the highlights in a game of diminishing returns for the Ducks. A 4-1 here's-your-hat loss to the New York Islanders in front of 10,782 at the Nassau Coliseum left what would have been footnotes as high points for the Ducks.

Giguere, who has been Martin Gerber's caddie the last three games, was brought back 4 minutes 50 seconds into the second period, after Gerber let in three of eight shots that had come his way. Carney, who was sidelined four weeks because of a broken bone in his right foot, labored through 16:59 of playing time.

And the Ducks were brought back to Earth a little, as the Islanders jumped on them early, scoring two first-period goals.

"It's a lot easier playing up 2-0 than down 2-0," defenseman Ruslan Salei said.

Jason Blake and Oleg Kvasha scored first-period goals for the Islanders, then Alexei Yashin made it 3-0 early in the second period. Goalie Rick DiPietro was up to nearly all of the few scoring chances the Ducks managed, stopping 17 of 18 shots.

"I thought we had good preparation. I thought," Duck Coach Mike Babcock said. "But obviously when you come out of the room and the other team is that much better than you.... It's not like they dominated us, but they were more patient and stuck to their plan."

Babcock's plan had Giguere starting tonight against Chicago. Plan B was unexpected.

Gerber had been unbeatable, going 3-0-1 in his last four starts. He began the day tops among NHL goaltenders in goals-against average and save percentage. Those numbers took a beating.

The math was tough on the Ducks: eight shots, three goals.

Trent Hunter fired a wild shot from the blue line that ricocheted off the boards and went to Blake behind the net. Blake then sent the puck on another zigzag journey, flipping a shot off Gerber's left leg pad and into the net for a 1-0 lead 4:20 into the game.

Kvasha made the score 2-0 with a slick back-hander at 16:34. It was left to Yashin to knock Gerber down and out. His hard shot hit Gerber, sending him to the seat of his pants and then to a seat on the bench, after the puck trickled into the net.

"We gave up 12-13 scoring chances in the game, which isn't a ton," Babcock said. "But we gave up some good ones, and they buried them."

So Giguere was summoned.

Although Giguere's hefty 3.14 goals-against average has been the cause of some concern, there was no doubt who was No. 1, according to Babcock.

"There is no question about that," Babcock said. "Everyone talks about it, the reality is that we know Jigs is our guy and we have to give him the opportunity to be that guy."

This was not opportunity knocking, with the Islanders in control. But neither was it an opportunity wasted.

"We were down three-cob, we need a change anyway," Babcock said. "Giguere is starting [today]. He hasn't played in a bit. It was a chance to get him in the game, get him going."

Giguere saw 12 shots and made 11 saves, and the goal he allowed couldn't be laid at his crease. Hunter was allowed to glide unmolested into the slot, where he one-timed a Shawn Bates pass for a 4-1 lead two minutes into the third period, ending any comeback illusions the Ducks might have harbored.

"It's not easy to go in a game like that, but the backup's job is to be ready," Giguere said.

"That's why you have to stay focused. I had to battle out there. But that will make myself more confident for tomorrow's start."

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