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Ducks Get Back to Basics, Win

Hockey: Stifling third-period defense keys 4-2 victory over New Jersey. Selanne and Kariya score.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Mighty Ducks played a throwback game, a clutching, grabbing, trapping, defensive masterpiece against the NHL's greatest practitioner of the genre.

All the talk in recent days centered on the Teemu Selanne trade and how it would instantly turn the heretofore punchless Ducks into an offensive powerhouse and a playoff contender.

But sound defense enabled the Ducks to defeat the New Jersey Devils, 4-2, in front of 17,690 Sunday at the Continental Airlines Arena.

It was precisely how they won 33 games in their inaugural season.

Selanne and Paul Kariya each scored as the Ducks (19-31-5) snapped a four-game losing streak, and a stifling third-period defense keyed it all. The loss ended New Jersey's eight-game unbeaten streak (5-0-3).

For five periods, including Saturday's 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders, Coach Ron Wilson teamed Selanne and Kariya on the same line.

Going into the third period leading the Devils, 2-1, Wilson broke up his dream line and the results were better offensively and defensively. Selanne played with J.F. Jomphe and Alex Hicks and Kariya joined Steve Rucchin and Jim Campbell.

"I wanted to see if Paul and Teemu would be compatible, but to be honest, they don't come back that hard [on defense]," Wilson said. "So I split them up. I think I'll split them up [in the future] and let the other team worry about two lines instead of one."

Wilson expects Selanne and Kariya to play together primarily on the power play.

In the game's final 20 minutes, the Ducks settled into their version of the neutral zone trap, a ploy that carried the Devils to the Stanley Cup championship last season.

Again and again, the Ducks pounced on poor clearing passes or swiped the puck off the stick of a Devil, setting up scoring chances.

"The trap has been mastered by New Jersey in terms of the counterattack," Wilson said. "But certainly in the third period, we got it down and took it right to them."

Kariya struck first, taking a cross-ice pass from Rucchin and beating goaltender Martin Brodeur with a one-timer for a 3-1 lead.

"The key is you always have to keep ahead of them," said Kariya, who scored his team-leading 30th goal and assisted on Todd Ewen's goal that gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead 8:43 into the game.

"Once they get ahead it's into the defensive shell."

Selanne later forced two New Jersey turnovers to set up excellent scoring chances, but Brodeur made big saves. Finally, after Scott Niedermayer scored to cut the lead to 3-2 with 3:21 left, Selanne scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory.

"They really wanted to shut down our line," Selanne said. "It [the Kariya-Selanne pairing] isn't working yet. Before I came here, I didn't have any idea how he plays the game. I saw him on TV, but I had no clue about his style. It takes a little time to find him [to pass Kariya the puck].

"When I played with Keith [Tkachuk in Winnipeg], every time I got the puck I knew where he was."

The Devils' inability to convert more than one of their 17 second-period shots also was crucial to the Ducks' victory. The only one that got past Guy Hebert was a rebound Peter Sykora slammed into the net at the 4:56 mark of the second.

"I'd have to say that [Hebert] played well, but on the other hand, we're not lucky on certain shots that could go in but hit the side of his pad and go wide of the net," Devil Coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We started well. We were in their end all the time. We could have scored five or six goals."

Hebert stopped 33 of 35 shots. Brodeur, who shut out the New York Rangers, 3-0, Saturday, faced 21 shots.

"I really wanted to win this game," Selanne said. "Every day I feel more like a part of this team."

Duck Notes

David Sacco's power-play goal at the 15:35 mark of the second period enabled the Ducks to set a record. It was the seventh consecutive game in which they've recorded a power-play goal. The Ducks' power play was still the league's worst (11.1%) before the game. . . . Center Shaun Van Allen was scratched for the second consecutive game because of back spasms. . . . Defenseman Oleg Mikulchik, a healthy scratch for nine consecutive games and 25 of 27, played in place of Don McSween. McSween, returning from a slashed forearm that sidelined him almost a year, had played the last two games.

* MIKE PENNER: Although he's played only two games for the Ducks, Teemu Selanne adds some drama. C2

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