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Ducks can't get past Canucks

Vancouver rookies Raymond and Jaffray score their first NHL goals in 3-2 victory over Anaheim.

December 13, 2007|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

If the Ducks were playing the way they did last season, they would have salivated at the thought of facing the Vancouver Canucks without star goalie Roberto Luongo.

In a season full of stops and starts, one thing about the defending Stanley Cup champions has been made clear each night -- you never know what you'll get from them.

The Ducks came back home full of momentum from a winning trip with the knowledge that defenseman Scott Niedermayer might play this weekend, but that dispersed quickly after a 3-2 loss Wednesday night at the Honda Center.

Not exactly the ideal way to start a three-game homestand and make a push upward in the Western Conference. The Ducks (15-14-4) missed a chance to pull into a three-way tie for first place in the Pacific Division with San Jose and Dallas.

"Coming back off that road trip, the first game back is very difficult," defenseman Mathieu Schneider said. "Whether you're flying east to west or west to east, it doesn't matter. It's a tough first game. And we didn't seem to realize that at the beginning."

A pair of Vancouver rookies who were recalled Tuesday from the minors helped do in the Ducks. Mason Raymond and Jason Jaffray each had a goal and an assist, the first NHL goal for each player.

Raymond and Jaffray helped build a 3-0 lead and made the most of a night where their main role was to fill in for injured veterans Brendan Morrison and Brad Isbister.

"They recalled two young players from the minors and both of them made a contribution," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. "That's huge when you can have young guys step in and get on the scoresheet for you."

Another fill-in for the Northwest Division-leading Canucks took it from there.

Curtis Sanford got the start in goal because Luongo, a Vezina Trophy finalist as the league's top goalie last season, could not play because of bruised ribs.

Sanford did a fair imitation with a 33-save performance that was sharp and at times acrobatic.

In one third-period sequence, Sanford made a stop on Ryan Getzlaf and somehow got his glove on a rebound try by Corey Perry that was headed for the net. Francois Beauchemin had a chance just a moment later but was also turned away.

"That kid played the game of his life over there," Schneider said.

"I thought we had bodies in front for deflections. Everything just seemed to be hitting him in the right spots."

Sanford was clearly better than his counterpart, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who gave up all three goals on the first 10 shots he faced before finding his game.

In a 65-second span late in the first period, Raymond finished off a two-on-one with Jaffray for the first goal, then Daniel Sedin ripped in a slap shot off a turnover by Ducks winger Chris Kunitz. Jaffray made it a three-goal lead at the 4:54 mark of the second when he was allowed to skate in front of Giguere from behind the net.

"They're in the NHL for a reason," Getzlaf said of the Canucks rookies. "There's a whole pile of guys that play in the minors who could probably play in the NHL if there was numbers."

The Ducks made it interesting with 1:31 remaining when they scored after pulling Giguere for an extra attacker.

Schneider's point shot deflected off Todd Bertuzzi and banked inside the right post, giving Bertuzzi his third goal in 19 games.

"If anything, we need to play the beginning of the game the way we finished the game," Schneider said. "At the end of the night, that was the difference."

eric.stephens@latimes.com

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