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Kariya Turns On the Magic Just in Nick of Time

Hockey: His speedy play in the third period sets up two goals, helps Ducks out of their funk.


ANAHEIM — It was only 11 games, but it seemed like forever.

Paul Kariya returned from a nagging abdominal injury in the 12th game, but the results were slow in coming.

The Mighty Ducks waited 40 more minutes Friday night, then reaped the rewards. It would be a stretch to say they were patient. Waiting was killing the Ducks.

But then the third period started against the San Jose Sharks at the Pond, and Kariya began to work his magic.

A blazing dash into the left-hand corner to retrieve a long (read errant) pass was followed by a blind pass to Teemu Selanne cruising down the slot.

Goal Selanne and a tie score, 3-3.

San Jose Coach Al Sims bristled when someone asked about a defensive breakdown on the play.

"I don't call Paul Kariya beating someone to the puck a complete breakdown of the defense," Sims said. "He beats everyone to the puck."

Minutes later, Kariya speeds into the Shark zone. San Jose defenseman Doug Bodger has two options, neither of which is appealing. Instead of letting Kariya zoom in alone on goalie Kelly Hrudey, Bodger hauls down Kariya.

Two minutes for holding.

The Ducks win the ensuing face off. Kariya sends the puck to Kevin Todd who whips it to Selanne, who buries a 35-foot slap shot behind Hrudey.

Goal Selanne, hat trick Selanne and a Duck lead, 4-3.

"Kariya just adds so much to their team: speed, play-making ability," Hrudey said. "They were just buzzing the net all night."

In four swift minutes with the game (read season) on the line, Kariya turned what looked like the Ducks' ninth consecutive loss into their second victory of 1996-97.

Not a minute too soon.

"It's about time to smile again, eh?" Selanne said.

Kariya's return benefits Selanne most of all, and not just Friday.

Instead of concentrating on stopping only Selanne while Kariya was on the mend, teams now must focus on both.

Sims tried to neutralize Selanne and Kariya by matching Bodger and Todd Gill against them. It worked for most of the game, but Duck Coach Ron Wilson found a chance to get his top guns on the ice while Sims' pesky defensemen were off.

Wilson gave credit to rookie defenseman Darren Van Impe for setting up the tying goal.

"Instead of trying to pass it to Paul directly, he put Paul in a position to go get the puck," Wilson said. "Teemu was smart to head to the front of the net."

Kariya's pass was perfect and Selanne merely had to tap it home.

The game-winner might have been hatched during a timeout Wilson called five minutes into the third period. The Ducks has just butchered one power play and were about to start another with San Jose's Al Iafrate in the penalty box for holding Selanne.

Wilson blasted his players in a tirade that could be clearly heard in the last row of the Pond.

"You've got to want the puck and take charge on the power play," Wilson later said of his outburst. "It might not have happened on that power play, but it did on the last one. You can't play pansy pass the puck and hope it goes in the net off the referee."

Wilson told Selanne to shoot the puck.

So he did.

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