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Ducks Don't Complain After Escaping With Tie

Hockey: Trepanier's goal catches Predators in closing minutes.


NASHVILLE — The Mighty Ducks had no business winning here Saturday, and they didn't. They probably had no business tying the hard-working Nashville Predators, but did so on defenseman Pascal Trepanier's long-range slap shot through traffic in the dying moments of the third period.

In the end, a 3-3 tie wasn't the worst thing that could have happened to the Ducks, who never led and seemed to be skating on a treadmill.

If nothing else, Saturday's game underscored the competitiveness of the NHL's Western Conference. No lead is safe. No team is to be overlooked.

Nashville doesn't rate high on anyone's list of conference juggernauts, but the Predators (5-3-4-1, 15 points) gave the Ducks (6-4-3-2, 17 points) fits from start to finish.

"We were talking all day about not taking these guys lightly," said Trepanier, whose goal with 2:13 left in regulation was his first in 50 games dating to March 17, 1999. "Even though they don't have any superstars, they're a pretty hard-working team. They're a pretty tough team to play."

The Ducks never unleashed their " 'A' game," as Teemu Selanne put it. But it was because of the Predators' aggressive penalty-killing unit, which muzzled the Ducks on six chances.

When Nashville's Drake Berehowsky went to the penalty box for hooking Selanne with 1:49 left in the five-minute overtime period, a hush settled over the crowd of 16,512 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

The Predators had blanked the Ducks' power play, the league's best on the road with a 33.3% success rate going into the game. But could they do it one more time?

Selanne blasted a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that goalie Tomas Vokoun juggled before smothering. Steve Rucchin had a couple of whacks from point-blank range. Paul Kariya sent a backhander from the right circle off Vokoun. But nothing got through.

"Those guys played really well," said Selanne, who had two assists. "They were checking us really well. There was not much room out there. Their penalty kill was really aggressive. They were playing us like it was five-on-five.

"We got one point. We have to be happy about that. But there was another point available and we couldn't take it."

Until Trepanier accepted a pass from Rucchin and fired the puck from the right point past Vokoun, it appeared the Ducks wouldn't take away any points.

A breakdown in coverage left Nashville's Cliff Ronning alone in the left circle and he whipped a pass from Patric Kjellberg past Guy Hebert for a 3-2 Predator lead 8:37 into the third period.

A neutral-zone giveaway and an unfortunate bounce set up the Predators' second goal, Randy Robitaille beating Hebert after picking up a loose puck that struck Duck defenseman Niclas Havelid's boot 9:24 into the second.

In the first, the Ducks failed to retreat into their defensive zone quickly enough and Robert Valicevic kicked free a puck from beneath Hebert's pads and shoveled it into the net for a 1-0 Nashville lead at 14:22.

"We don't have to play a perfect game," Coach Craig Hartsburg said. "But we had three mistakes that cost us goals and it's unfortunate."

Hebert said he asked for a video review of Valicevic's goal, but his pleas fell on the deaf ears of referees Don Koharski and Stephane Auger. "Bizarre," Hebert said.

German Titov's goal, only his second as a Duck, tied the score at 1-all 1:52 into the second period. Robitaille gave Nashville a 2-1 lead before the midway point of the period, but Ladislav Kohn scored to get the Ducks even again at 10:04.

Ronning's ninth goal and 30th point in 26 games against the Ducks put Nashville into the lead again, 3-2. But Trepanier tied it one final time at 17:47.

"I called for the puck from 'Rooch,' " Trepanier said, referring to Rucchin, who earned his 200th NHL assist. "I knew [Vokoun] is a butterfly goalie and he takes away the low shots. I knew I had to lift it and, hopefully, put it on net. I didn't see it go in, but it did. We battled back. A tie on the road is pretty good."

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