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HELENE ELLIOTT

Ducks get 4-3 overtime win, and Coach Randy Carlyle gets some support

Scott Niedermayer's overtime breakaway lifts them over Vancouver, as General Manager Bob Murray says coach has his full backing amid the team's struggles.

March 12, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

As bad as things have gotten for the Ducks this season -- and they nearly got very bad before Scott Niedermayer's overtime breakaway lifted them to a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at the Honda Center -- General Manager Bob Murray said he had never considered firing Coach Randy Carlyle.

Murray chose instead to fire some of his players, pulling off a series of trades aimed at now and the future.

New acquisitions Petteri Nokelainen, Erik Christensen and Ryan Whitney excelled Wednesday, with Nokelainen scoring his first goal of the season to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead at 13:21 of the second period and Christensen and Whitney each contributing two assists.

Vancouver's Ryan Kesler tied it with 4:58 left in the third on a rebound near the right post, but Niedermayer rescued them while each team had a man in the penalty box and only three skaters on the ice. Taking a crisp pass from Chris Pronger, he skated in alone on Roberto Luongo and rifled a wrist shot over the goalie's shoulder 3:37 into overtime.

"Well, fortunately I kind of bobbled it, so I really didn't have time to think too much, which is probably good," he said. "I just went down and tried to get it up high."

In ending a four-game home losing streak, the Ducks moved within a point of eighth in the West. But they have played more games than their rivals and face a steep climb to get a playoff spot.

The Ducks have grossly underachieved, but they are not alone. Three days ago, the Montreal Canadiens fired Guy Carbonneau, the seventh NHL coach fired this season and probably not the last.

Carlyle won't join that list, Murray said. Asked if he's committed to keeping Carlyle on the job, he didn't hesitate.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "This has nothing to do with coaching here."

The cause of their woes was clear Wednesday. Especially when they built a 2-0 lead on goals by Teemu Selanne, off a turnover, and Ryan Getzlaf with help from Christensen and Whitney, but lost it on consecutive stoppable shots that skipped through goaltender Jonas Hiller's legs.

"We're not playing very good," Murray said. "You start with goaltending, and it goes to the penalty killing and so on."

He's not blaming Carlyle, whose contract was extended last summer through 2010-11.

"No, no. No," Murray said. "It's not an issue. It's not part of the process here."

The process of rebuilding on the fly was difficult because Brian Burke pushed so close to the salary-cap limit before departing for Toronto that Murray had few options to make an aging, slowing team younger and faster.

Carlyle deserves a grace period for that, and because it's not his fault bruising defenseman Francois Beauchemin suffered a serious knee injury or that Hiller and Jean-Sebastien Giguere forgot how to calculate angles.

"We've got a long way to go," Niedermayer said, and Carlyle has earned the right to lead them.

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

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