ANAHEIM — The clock ticked down in overtime Friday night, five-four-three-two-one, with the Mighty Ducks headed for a disheartening tie against the New York Islanders, one of the worst teams in the NHL this season.
But the Ducks' Steve Rucchin dug the puck out of a corner and sent it out to defenseman Jason York, who slapped a last-ditch shot at the Islanders' goal, then jumped on his own long rebound and tried another. And then, with three-tenths of a second left the puck fluttered into the net after teammate Peter Douris deflected York's shot past goalie Jamie McLennan for a 2-1 victory at The Pond.
Eyes went to the scoreboard clock, and the celebration began.
"It was like a 60-yard field goal at the horn, into the wind," said Duck Coach Ron Wilson. "I kept waiting for the horn to go. I said, 'Where's the horn?"'
Douris' goal started a celebration boisterous enough that he was cut on the bridge of his nose, but he hardly cared.
"You take a swing 10 other times and you might hit a couple. It might have gone in anyway," he said. "I'm good at that in baseball, laying down a bunt."
Once the celebration subsided, a damning detail emerged from the Islanders' dressing room: They only had four skaters on the ice when Rucchin sent the puck out to York in the slot.
"I was wondering why I was so open," York said.
Islander Coach Mike Milbury took the blame, saying it had to be the coach's fault--and declining to name the guilty player.
"We had a bad line change and the last eight or 10 seconds we played shorthanded," he said. "Somebody came off the ice and nobody went on."
The last-second victory gave the Ducks their eighth win in the last 10 games and gave them a .500 record (10-10) for the first time since the sixth game of last season. They've never been .500 this late into the season.
The crowd of 17,174 witnessed a rather dull 65 minutes, capped by a spectacular last half-second. The Ducks outshot the Islanders, 44-27, in regulation, but McLennan was good enough to hold them off.
After putting up so little resistance against the Kings, the Islanders were persistent and hard-working against the Ducks.
The game was scoreless until 13:35 of the second period, when Islander center Alexander Semak jumped on the puck in the slot and beat Duck goalie Guy Hebert. The Ducks countered 31 seconds later, when center Mike Sillinger found left wing Patrik Carnback with a pass from behind the goal line. Islander defenseman Dean Chynoweth had lost his stick on the play, and was more or less defenseless to stop Sillinger's pass to Carnback, who scored easily. The goal, his fifth, tied the score, 1-1 at 14:06 of the second.
The Ducks' Paul Kariya was held without a point streak--suggesting he hasn't yet heard the story of Milbury betting Duck scout Al Godfrey a couple of years ago that Kariya, a smallish playmaker, would never score 20 goals in an NHL season. Kariya already has 15 in 20 games this season.
The Ducks' complaints to the NHL about Dallas winger Shane Churla injuring rookie center Chad Kilger with an unpenalized slash in a game Oct. 26 have resulted in a $1,000 fine and two-game suspension without pay to Churla. Churla broke his ankle later in the game and has been sidelined since.