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Ducks Hand Back a Victory

The losing streak and soul searching continue as the team lets go of a late-game lead in a loss to the Oilers at Edmonton.

October 27, 2002|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

EDMONTON, Canada — Now the mental juggling act begins.

The Mighty Ducks had a game in hand, one of those hard-to-come-by road victories all-but handed to them. Yet, they were the ones with heads down in the dressing room, after bobbling a two-goal lead in 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Soul searching was in full swing even before the crowd of 16,375 had finished filing out of the SkyReach Center. The Ducks are living proof that no lead is safe, especially when they are the ones leading.

This was the third time in four games that they let a lead go late.

"Normally you tend to dwell on this until midnight," Duck Coach Mike Babcock said. "Tomorrow will be a new day. We got to be regrouped and get back at."

Being daylight saving time Saturday, the Ducks had an extra hour to ponder what happened to their 3-1 lead over the Oilers, who had won only one of their first five games.

"This is the kind of thing that has happened to us every year," Mike Leclerc said. "We have to stop it now. It's not a personnel thing. We can't let teams back into the game."

Let the Oilers back in? The Ducks practically dragged them kicking and screaming like a child who didn't want to go.

The Ducks were set to snap a seven-game losing streak in Edmonton, which seemed merely a formality after the first period. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they treated it as such.

The Oilers responded with three goals in a 13-minute span during the third period, two on the power play. Defenseman Eric Brewer scored one and assisted on the other two, including the game winner.

The Ducks turned the puck over, which led to Brewer centering a pass to Brian Swanson. His one-timer beat goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with 3 minutes 12 seconds left.

"You could feel it shifting in the first period, when we were up, 3-1," Leclerc said. "They kept coming at us and eventually it gave them enough momentum."

This is getting repetitive.

The Ducks let a lead slip away.

Each time, Babcock has said the same thing, "we got to keep our foot on the gas."

Each time Duck players have vowed much the same thing.

"This was a big learning experience for our young hockey team," Petr Sykora said. "It doesn't happen over night."

There were moments the Ducks could point at, some out of their control, which cost them Saturday.

Giguere could cry foul, after being called for obstruction interference on Ethan Moreau with the score tied, 3-3. Giguere seemed to merely graze Moreau, who went down. Moments later, Swanson scored. Even Moreau said, "I'm not sure what happened there."

Giguere said: "I don't want to comment on that. You guys saw it, let's leave it at that."

Giguere had a chance to freeze the puck before the goal. Instead, he tried to flip it to Paul Kariya. The Oilers ended up with the puck and produced the game-winner.

Everything was going right for the Ducks early, and they hardly had to do a thing.

Oiler goalie Tommy Salo was having an Olympic-type performance. Not a good thing, considering Salo's memorable Olympics involved a lazy shot going off him and into the net, giving Belarus a victory over Sweden.

Sykora scored the first two Duck goals, one with the Ducks short-handed. Mike Leclerc whirled and fired a shot past a stunned-looking Salo for a 3-1 lead 11:32 into the first period.

That ended the night for Salo and, as it turned out, for the Ducks.

Said Babcock: "They skated, we stood still."

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