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Ducks Work Overtime to Keep Their Hopes Alive

Hockey: Tverdovsky's goal gives Anaheim a 4-3 win over Phoenix and maintains chance for postseason play.

March 27, 2000|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

That loud ticking in the first period Sunday at the Arrowhead Pond was the unmistakable sound of time running out on the Mighty Ducks' playoff hopes.

Down by two goals and knowing their dreams were about to end if they didn't find their game, and soon, the Ducks tapped into a heretofore unseen energy source and pulled out a season-saving, 4-3, overtime victory against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Actually, the source was right wing Teemu Selanne.

All but invisible for the last three games, Selanne scored two goals and assisted on two others, including Oleg Tverdovsky's winner 3:47 into overtime.

"I felt a lot of responsibility tonight," Selanne said.

The victory kept the ninth-place Ducks within striking distance in the fight for a Western Conference playoff spot. By forcing overtime, Phoenix picked up a point and moved into sixth place.

Phoenix, seventh-place San Jose and eighth-place Edmonton each have 80 points. The Ducks and 10th-place Vancouver have 78 points.

A loss Sunday wouldn't officially have eliminated the Ducks, but it would have come close.

"We realized it was do or die," Tverdovsky said after scoring his second overtime winner this season.

The Ducks fell behind, 3-1, in the first period.

Benoit Hogue gave the Coyotes the lead 1:02 into the game, whistling a slap shot off the crossbar then the right goal post before the puck settled into the net.

Duck center Steve Rucchin accidentally tapped a loose puck past goalie Guy Hebert at 9:36. Phoenix's Trevor Letowski was credited with the goal and the Coyotes led, 2-0.

Twenty-seven seconds after Selanne's first goal, Hebert misplayed a bad-angle shot by Travis Green. Greg Adams slipped the rebound into an open net at 17:53 and it was 3-1.

Given Friday's 8-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the last thing the mighty desperate Ducks wanted was a belly flop to start Sunday's game.

"We were kind of hoping instead of doing something," Tverdovsky said of the Ducks' first-period play.

No one rose to give an inspirational speech during the first intermission, however.

"The coach didn't even break anything," Selanne said of Craig Hartsburg.

"He was pretty calm."

The Coyotes then started playing like a team that had lost six consecutive going into Sunday. After outshooting the Ducks, 17-10, in the first period, the Coyotes were outshot, 31-7, the rest of the way.

Selanne got the comeback started, scoring his 30th goal on a slap shot from the right faceoff circle 3:48 into the second period. Defenseman Fredrik Olausson's power-play goal at 1:17 of the third got the Ducks even.

Tverdovsky made the Ducks winners with his 15th goal of the season, ripping a one-timer off a pass from Matt Cullen into the net three seconds after a holding penalty to Phoenix's Lyle Odelein expired.

"I was yelling like crazy and he found me," Tverdovsky said.

Said Cullen: "How could you miss him? I saw him. No way could I have heard him. It was too loud in the building. He did a great job of finding the hole [in the defense]. . . . I was so happy it went in."

The Ducks poured over the boards to form a group hug with Tverdovsky. It was difficult to know if it was jubilation or relief.

After playing eight games in 13 nights, the Ducks have five days to prepare for Saturday's game against the Kings at Staples Center.

The Ducks then have one more game against the Kings, two against the Nashville Predators and one against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks are 2-0-2 against the Kings this season, 2-0 against Nashville and 3-0-1 against Chicago.

"This gives us a chance to rest and work on some things," Hartsburg said of the week ahead.

"All we have to do now is worry about our next game in L.A. There are 10 points left on the table for us."

Anything seems possible at this point.

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