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HELENE ELLIOTT / ON THE NHL

Ducks are full of suspense in 3-2 victory over Phoenix

They don't repeat the two-goal lead collapse of previous game and eke out win over division rival. Rookie defenseman Cam Fowler leaves game with facial injury.

October 17, 2010|Helene Elliott

For a team still finding its stride, squandering a two-goal lead two games in a row could have been a deeply deflating blow to its confidence.

But instead of duplicating the collapse that consigned them to a loss to Atlanta on Friday, the Ducks on Sunday ignored history and the facial injury that took impressive rookie defenseman Cam Fowler out of the game and eked out a 3-2 victory over the division rival Phoenix Coyotes.

"It shows we're gritty," said winger Bobby Ryan, who assisted on all three goals and made an extraordinary effort to begin the play that turned into Corey Perry's winner, at 14:23 of the third period.

"We make it interesting. Repetitive, I guess, as well."

Coach Randy Carlyle could probably do with a lot less suspense.

"I don't have any cuticles left," he said. "It got to a hairy point there."

Goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped 36 shots, including 15 of 17 in the third period, as the Ducks (2-3-1) finished their first homestand of the season feeling better about themselves than when it began. They begin a four-game trip Wednesday at Columbus.

"It's not how we plan it but those things happen. Bounces go other ways," Perry said. "Things happen in a game, but we found a way to win tonight and that's how we've got to keep the momentum and keep it going."

They managed to hold on despite losing Fowler to a cut and possibly broken nose in the second period. The 18-year-old rookie, who had scored his first NHL goal on a 60-foot shot past a harried Jason LaBarbera at 3:41 of the period, seemed determined to score again five minutes later, eluding two defenders and trying to beat a third when he was taken into the boards behind the net by Coyotes forward Shane Doan.

The hit — hard but clean — caused his helmet to pop off and left him stunned and bleeding at 8:45. He did not return, but Carlyle said that was "more precautionary than anything." Ryan said players were told Fowler was OK. "He's a tough kid," Ryan said.

Not to mention the best thing that has happened this season to the Ducks.

They are still allowing opponents to take an average of more than 42 shots per game, and they got way too scrambly in the final period Sunday.

"We need to find a way to not make that a game. We need to put that out of reach," Ryan said. "We had chances in the third that we didn't take advantage of. I think we sat back too much and they came in waves."

But they minimized their penalty minutes — they took only three minors and one was an off-setting penalty — and the top line of Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Perry produced a goal and seven points. After being blanked in the first three games, that trio has six goals and 19 points in the last three.

The Ducks' defense stepped up in different ways. Andreas Lilja, his visa problems solved, played a gritty 18 minutes 11 seconds. Fellow free-agent signee Toni Lydman scored his second goal in two games, giving the Ducks a 2-0 lead at 9:44 of the second. Ryan slipped a backhand pass through the crease to Lydman, who was alone on the left side and lifted the puck over LaBarbera's right arm.

But Phoenix (1-2-1) pulled even in the third. Doan, on the left-wing boards, found Scottie Upshall for a 20-foot shot that clanged off the post and Hiller's upper back and fell behind him at 1:01. Former King Eric Belanger tied it at 11:19, after Adrian Aucoin poked the puck away from Ducks winger Matt Beleskey high in the Ducks' zone and got it to Doan. He settled the puck with his foot before feeding Belanger, whose low shot eluded Hiller.

The Ducks' top line rescued them. Ryan, down behind his own net and gasping, lunged to pass the puck ahead to Getzlaf, who went up the left side before passing to Perry for a deft redirection.

"It was huge," Perry said. "Just to get back in the win column, just have that feeling going on the road of a little momentum and we know we can win at crucial times. We showed it tonight."

Which is better than some of the other tendencies they have showed this season.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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