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Ducks Live Up to Their Billing

A trendy pick to win the Stanley Cup, Anaheim takes charge in the third period and defeats the Kings, 4-3, in the teams' season opener.

October 07, 2006|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

All the prognostications from publications and other hockey outlets rolled in and they often contained something once unthinkable. The Ducks will win the Stanley Cup.

Randy Carlyle, their second-year coach, had one reaction.

"I cringed," Carlyle said.

The Ducks trotted out the red carpet for Friday night's season opener and did their best to soil it until Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz broke a third-period tie in their 4-3 victory over the Kings before an energetic sellout crowd at the Ducks' newly renamed Honda Center.

It is their first step into what they hope is a new frontier.

"There was a lot of hype in training camp, and what not, about the expectations for our team," said Ducks center Andy McDonald, who scored a goal. "It's good to come out and get the win in your first game in your home building against a rival like L.A.

"It wasn't our best game, but we found a way to win."

With their surprise advance to the Western Conference finals last season and their subsequent acquisition of defenseman Chris Pronger, the Ducks were considered a trendy pick to win their first Cup.

It is uncharted territory for a franchise desperately trying to move past its cartoon image. Armed with new black, gold and orange uniforms, the Ducks want to be mighty, not Mighty.

"It's like a high-wire act," General Manager Brian Burke said of the expectations. "We haven't fueled any of this. There have been no quotes from management, coaches or players. No predictions. But we've got to accept what the media community makes as their predictions."

Getzlaf's quick wrist shot at 6:45 of the third blew past the glove of Dan Cloutier, who stopped 28 shots in his first game with the Kings. Kunitz, who assisted on McDonald's second-period goal, followed two minutes later with some insurance on the power play.

"That is what happens when you play good teams," the Kings' Rob Blake said. "You can't have little letdowns like we did in the third period. You give a good team like that chances, and they're going to score."

The Kings got an auspicious debut from rookie Anze Kopitar, who scored their first two goals. Mostly, though, they were turned away by the Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Fresh off winning a training camp goaltending battle with second-year player Ilya Bryzgalov, Giguere was impressive in making 41 saves. But his strong outing came with a scare.

Midway through the third period, Giguere awkwardly went to the ice to make a save on Jeff Cowan and stayed there until the next whistle, culling images of the groin and hamstring issues that plagued him last season.

Giguere, who has long had problems with dehydration, said it was a cramp in his right leg.

"I'm not sure why it happened," he said. "I don't feel that bad actually. I don't feel like I'm dehydrated.... I've got to hydrate again. It's the story of my life."

For two periods, the Kings looked more like a reigning playoff team and not one that hasn't played in the postseason since 2002. They blitzed the Ducks for 22 first-period shots, but Giguere knocked them all aside.

Kopitar's first NHL goal was a glimpse of the tremendous promise that made him the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft. The 19-year-old right wing picked up a pass off the right boards from Dustin Brown and steamed around Pronger before deftly flipping the puck over Giguere.

Kopitar's second one wasn't highlight-reel material, but it was just as effective. He flipped a seemingly harmless backhand shot toward the net that a backchecking Francois Beauchemin of the Ducks deflected past Giguere into his own net.

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eric.stephens@latimes.com

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