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Schneider's debut is a winner for Ducks, 2-1

November 02, 2007|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

It was as if the sellout crowd of 17,174 at the Honda Center knew what was coming when a collective groan was let out upon the announcement that the Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets were headed for a shootout Thursday night.

The home fans let it be known that two-plus years of shootout losses weren't much fun to watch anymore.

So Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle injected a little drama into the proceedings. He gave Mathieu Schneider a try in his long-awaited debut, even though the defenseman had never been called on.

Schneider delivered with the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory that ended the Ducks' four-game losing streak and stopped the surging Blue Jackets in their tracks.

The Ducks (5-7-2) dominated most of the game and finished with a 34-20 advantage in shots. Yet their scoring problems continued as they could squeak only Rob Niedermayer's third-period goal past Columbus backup Fredrik Norrena.

It didn't look promising after overtime ended. The Ducks have never thrived in the shootout and already had losses to Detroit and Edmonton this season.

But it proved to be quite an entrance for Schneider, who missed the first 13 games with a broken bone in his left ankle after signing a two-year, $11.25 free-agent contract during the summer.

Schneider took the Ducks' second try and managed to sneak a shot through Norrena's pads, with the puck dribbling over the goal line.

"I would have never imagined that finish," Schneider said.

Having watched them fail on all three attempts Sunday against Edmonton, Carlyle opted to roll the dice.

"It was time we changed it up a little bit," Carlyle said. "With Schneids not having been available to us for quite some time, we felt it was time for him to earn some of his keep."

So what was Schneider thinking when Carlyle called his number?

"Don't fan on it," the defenseman said with a smile.

Afterward, Schneider cracked a joke about his previous coach, Detroit's Mike Babcock.

"I thought [Randy] was kidding at first, to tell you the truth," he said. "Babcock never had confidence in me. I showed him."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who stopped 19 shots in regulation, secured the win when he stopped David Vyborny's effort. A win over Columbus has currency now, given the Blue Jackets' franchise-record 7-3-2 start.

"We needed the win, no doubt about that," Giguere said. "The last few games, we've been playing better. It's nice to get two points and get rewarded for our hard work."

Schneider logged over 25 minutes in his first game and reported no problems with his ankle. He wasn't the only injured Ducks player that made a difference upon his return.

Niedermayer, who sat the last three games with a groin strain, ended a scoreless game 13 seconds into the third period when he jammed in his own rebound for his first regular-season goal since Feb. 6.

Columbus erased that advantage with a power-play goal. Nikolai Zherdev pounced on a rebound to tie the game at 3:46 of the third.

But the Ducks persevered after taking two days earlier this week to clear their minds. "It was one of those hockey games that would have been a shame to lose," Carlyle said. "Now the pressure will be on me in that I'll have to give them two more days off. That's what they'll be looking for. That's not happening."

eric.stephens@latimes.com

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