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Ducks Look Pretty Good Getting Even With Coyotes

Hockey: Tverdovsky's third-period goal helps Anaheim earn a 1-1 tie with Phoenix.

November 02, 2000|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sure, it's only one point in the standings, but the Mighty Ducks were in no mood to quibble with the results Wednesday. They managed to sneak one puck past scalding Phoenix Coyote goaltender Sean Burke and rallied for a hard-earned 1-1 tie before only 11,602 at the half-empty Arrowhead Pond.

"It's always nice to score against those guys," said defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, a former Coyote who slipped the tying goal past Burke from a sharp angle on the left wing 5:50 into the third period. "I'll take any goal against those guys. I was just trying to throw the puck at the net and hoping somebody would get the rebound. It went in."

After victories over the likes of the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames, the Ducks at last proved they could compete with a league power and come out, if not ahead, then at least tied.

Wednesday's point vaulted the Coyotes, unbeaten in 10 consecutive games, into sole possession of the league lead with a 9-1-3 record for 21 points. The Ducks (6-4-2-2) remained seventh overall by tightening up defensively, cutting down on their shots allowed and suffocating the Coyotes with a persistent forecheck.

This was not the way the Ducks played in a 5-3 loss Monday to the Edmonton Oilers, when they were outshot, 37-19, and outhustled to almost every loose puck. The Ducks took to heart a lecture Tuesday about defense from Coach Craig Hartsburg.

"We had a big meeting," Cullen said. "We watched some video. [Hartsburg] showed us where we had breakdowns. It was better to actually see it on video instead of hear about it. We played it smart tonight. We did a better job of forechecking. We did a better job of communicating."

Against Phoenix, the Ducks won all sorts of small battles, including the one that led to Tverdovsky's tying goal. Teemu Selanne had to take one for the team to get the play rolling.

Fighting for a loose puck along the right-wing boards, Selanne collided with Phoenix defenseman Keith Carney, who cross-checked the Duck right wing to the ice, drawing a delayed penalty. The puck squirted free to center Matt Cullen, who spotted a cutting Tverdovsky on the left wing and slipped him the puck.

"I don't know how he got it in there," Cullen said of Tverdovsky's second goal in as many games. "Teemu made the play happen."

Burke, who has stopped 98 of 101 shots in three games, was less impressed by Tverdovsky's goal. "He blew it by me," he said. "That's just me being sarcastic. I just missed it."

The Ducks fired plenty of other difficult chances at Burke, the NHL's player of the month who is rumored to be out of a job when Wayne Gretzky and Steve Ellman complete their purchase of the team.

"There have been a lot of distractions around this team the last couple of years," Burke said. "But once you step inside the doors, you have pride and you have a job to do."

Despite a matchup of two of the league's hottest teams, an ocean of empty seats greeted the Ducks and Coyotes. An announced crowd of 11,602 was the third of less than 12,000 is six home games this season, an average of 13,019 in the 17,174-seat arena.

The fans witnessed a classic goaltenders' duel. Phoenix's lone goal was set up by a harmless-looking dump-in from defenseman Ossi Vaananen. Guy Hebert came out of his net to play the puck as it went around the boards, but the puck eluded the goalie and trickled into the right-hand corner.

Coyote winger Landon Wilson got to the puck first and whipped a cross-ice pass to an uncovered Brad May, whose one-timer beat Hebert at 7:58 of the second period.

The Ducks had perhaps a dozen quality scoring chances, but were turned away repeatedly by Burke en route to a 26-16 advantage in shots on goal. Midway through the second, Burke managed to get his glove on Paul Kariya's blistering slap shot from the left wing.

"Paul usually scores on those," Cullen said.

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