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Ducks Fall to New Low : Hockey: They lose to Sharks, 4-3, to drop fourth in a row after an impressive start.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With their hot-selling logos, spanking-new arenas and dueling shades of teal, the Mighty Ducks and the San Jose Sharks are the most natural of marketing rivals.

But California’s two young NHL teams were duking it out for more than merchandise sales Thursday, and the Sharks won the first official meeting, 4-3, in front of 16,183 at San Jose Arena.

The Ducks trailed by as many as three goals in the third period, but rallied with two goals, including one by center Bob Corkum with 44 seconds to play. Coach Ron Wilson pulled goaltender Guy Hebert with about 30 seconds remaining but to no avail.

“We played poorly the first 13 minutes of the game. I give them credit,” Wilson said. “But we almost pulled it out.”

If the Ducks were feeling high and mighty after a 2-2-2 start that included a victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, their spirits have sunk lower after back-to-back losses to expansion teams only a little older than they are, the second-year Ottawa Senators and the third-year Sharks. The Ducks have lost four consecutive games since beating the Rangers.

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“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” said Corkum. “This is a team we should have been able to beat. We started the road trip with the big win in New York, but things haven’t gone too well for us lately. We didn’t deserve to win this one. We’ve got to try to capitalize on our chances more.”

The rivalry with the Sharks is likely to be the Ducks’ fiercest. The Kings might elicit a certain passion because of their proximity, but the Sharks will probably be closest in the Pacific Division standings. Until recent days, the Ducks were in fourth place with the early upper hand over Edmonton and San Jose. But San Jose has won two in a row to narrow the gap to a point.

With the score tied, 1-1, San Jose’s Sergei Makarov scored at 13:26 of the second period when he lifted a loose puck after Hebert swept a rebound out of his own reach.

The Sharks added to that 29 seconds into the third when Igor Larionov beat Hebert on a slap shot from beyond the blue line.

The Sharks made it 4-1 on a shorthanded goal at 3:14 when Mike Sullivan fended off Bill Houlder’s defense on a near breakaway, breaking open to score with a spin move to his forehand.

The Ducks cut the lead to 4-2 at 5:30, when Tim Sweeney scored his first of the season with a deflection of a shot by Houlder.

But once more, the Ducks played a game filled with chances--they outshot San Jose, 31-24--but didn’t capitalize. They even had a 2-on-0 opportunity, but Anatoli Semenov passed to Joe Sacco, and goalie Arturs Irbe made the save.

“I think Irbe expected pass all along, it being Anatoli Semenov,” Wilson said, saying perhaps Semenov should have shot or held the puck as if he were going to shoot.

The Sharks were circling early, with scoring chance after scoring chance in the first period. Pat Falloon, Rob Gaudreau and Tom Pederson had numerous opportunities, but many shots went high or wide, and Hebert faced only 10 official shots in the period.

San Jose finally broke through for a goal when defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh took a pass from Makarov, faked a shot, then moved into the left faceoff circle and calmly put the puck past Hebert into the far corner of the net at 10:10 of the first. The Ducks gave him too much time, and when Hebert tried to move out and take away the angle, Ozolinsh still found the open corner.

Bobby Dollas’ first goal of the season tied the score at 14:03.

Duck Notes

The Ducks’ payroll this season is shy of $8 million, with an average salary of $320,000, about $142,000 below the average NHL player’s 1992-93 salary, the Hockey News reported. Defenseman Alexei Kasatonov is the highest paid at $650,000, followed by goaltender Ron Tugnutt ($525,000), defenseman Randy Ladouceur ($450,000) and goalie Guy Hebert ($425,000). Leading scorer Terry Yake is eighth highest at $350,000, according to the report. The payroll is about $750,000 less than that of the Florida Panthers, the other 1993 NHL expansion team.

* MARIO LEMIEUX RETURNS

He has two assists in first game of season after back surgery, but Penguins lose to Quebec, 7-3. C11

* STILL PERFECT

Toronto extends NHL record for consecutive victories at start of a season to 10 with 4-2 victory at Chicago. C11


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