Mighty Duck forward Marty McInnis stood in the limelight Monday night. Hats fell on the ice. His teammates mobbed him. Teemu Selanne patted him on the helmet on the bench.
The higher praise came from the guy who had his head down and was scuffing the ice with his skate. King goalie Jamie Storr could only admire McInnis' three-goal performance, which allowed the Ducks to escape with a point in a 5-4 overtime loss at the Arrowhead Pond.
"A lot of times a guy will work hard and not get rewarded," Storr said. "He made sure he got the reward."
The biggest payoff came in the third period, when McInnis crashed the net, took a pass from Mike Leclerc and scored, to tie the score, 4-4, at 16 minutes 40 seconds. It gave McInnis the second hat trick of his career.
McInnis' only other hat trick came on Jan. 24, 1998 against Vancouver, when he was playing for Calgary.
"They don't happen too often," McInnis said. "But we were able to come away with one point. That's the important thing."
The even bigger picture is that McInnis is obviously healthy for the first time in nearly a year.
McInnis was hampered the second half of the last season by a strained groin, which required off-season surgery. The injury severely limited his play and he finished with only 10 goals, his lowest total since scoring nine in the lockout season of 1994-95.
"It's hard to play when you can't skate," McInnis said. "It was frustrating for me. It was frustrating for the team because we were trying to make the playoffs."
McInnis has certainly demonstrated that he is healthy. He has six goals and eight points in nine games this season. He has shown the same skills that made him so vital to the Ducks' playoff run two years ago when he had 18 goals and 52 points.
"It's great having Marty healthy," Paul Kariya said. "He has a great shot and always seems to be around the net. That whole line has been playing well for us."
Cullen, who had three assists Monday, has one goal and seven points this season. Leclerc, who had a goal and assist Monday, has four goals and a team-high 10 points.
The game-tying goal was a group effort.
Cullen picked up the puck behind the net and made a no-look pass to Leclerc by the right post. Leclerc hacked at the puck and managed to slide it to McInnis, who had an empty net to shoot at.
"That line doesn't do any of the fancy stuff," Coach Craig Hartsburg said. "They go up and down the ice. They scored three working-man goals tonight."
The three did lunch-pail work throughout.
Leclerc and Cullen gritted out the third-period goal just by being active. A Vitaly Vishnevski shot hit Cullen, who managed to control the puck and pass to Leclerc for the goal.
Cullen also set up a two-on-one break in the first period when he picked up a turnover, then left a pass for McInnis, who whipped a shot past Storr.
"I still don't know how that shot went in," McInnis said. "But Cully made the play happen. He has really worked hard this season and is creating chances like that."
McInnis later scored on the power play, tipping a Kariya pass into the net to tie the score, 2-2, at 11:30 of the first period.