DUCKS CAN'T SPREAD BLAME : UNINSPIRED EFFORT LEADS TO HOME LOSS PHOENIX 5 DUCKS 2.
Video replay was not a problem for the Mighty Ducks on Thursday night. This time their goals, both by Teemu Selanne, counted.
As for the rest of the Ducks' performance, it's doubtful anybody would want to watch that again. Playing without the fire you'd expect their recent frustrations to inspire, they lost to the Phoenix Coyotes 5-2 before 17,174 fans at the Pond and fell behind 3-2 in their best-of-seven NHL playoff series.
Selanne's second goal of the game and fifth of the series, off a rebound of J.J. Daigneault's shot during a power play, had cut the deficit to 3-2 with 13 minutes left. But the Ducks were done after a Bob Corkum backhander beat goalie Guy Hebert with less than 5:50 on the clock. Keith Tkachuk's empty-net goal with 20 seconds left accounted for the final score.
Jeremy Roenick and Teppo Numminen scored goals in a two-minute span in the second period to give the Coyotes their 3-1 lead.
The Ducks had emerged from their morning skate claiming the frustration of Tuesday night's loss in Phoenix - in which their best effort of the series went for nothing when Steve Rucchin's go-ahead goal was disallowed with 8:02 to play because Brian Bellows' skate was spotted in the crease - was out of their system.
But in fact, they still sounded angry.
Selanne said the spate of man-in-the-crease calls by video-review officials in the playoffs has been ``brutal . . . There's no excuse for that. There are enough guys (on the ice) to tell if it's a goal or not.''
The question was whether the controversy would pump up the Ducks or distract them from their game plan slash wish list, which included matching the beefier Coyotes check for check, improving their power play, and doing all that for more than the 55 solid minutes they managed Tuesday.
While respecting the sanctity of the crease, the Ducks also promised to buzz the net more tenaciously than they had since the opener, when Selanne and Paul Kariya combined for four goals.
``We need more shots and more guys going to the net, because he (Coyotes goalie Nikolai Khabibulin) gives up rebounds,'' said Selanne, the right wing and prophet.
The Ducks trailed 1-0 with less than four minutes to play in the first period when Kariya got the puck at the right boards and slipped it to Dan Trebil. The defenseman's blast from the slot was blocked but not held by Khabibulin. Selanne was there to flip the puck past Khabibulin's blocker for his fourth goal of the series.
That was Anaheim's first goal in 118 minutes. Khabibulin had stopped 62 of 63 shots in games 3 and 4.
The Coyotes scored with just their fifth shot, almost 15 minutes into the game. Counterpunching against Anaheim's Selanne-Rucchin-Kariya attack, Tkachuk got behind defensemen Daigneault and David Karpa and Craig Janney fed him the puck at the blue line. Tkachuk faked Hebert to the ice and went high for his fourth goal.
The Ducks fans chanted, ``Replay!'' Do they give points for sarcasm?
Three of the first four games essentially were one-goal decisions (before empty-net goals). But just when this looked like another one, Phoenix scored twice in less than two minutes, and the Ducks' 12-0-4 unbeaten streak at the Pond was in jeopardy.
Roenick made it 2-1 7:17 into the second period, jamming in the rebound of a Darrin Shannon shot.
Numminen, who'd made his biggest impact on the series as Selanne's defensive nemesis, gave the Coyotes a 3-1 lead at 9:12, scoring off a centering pass by Mike Gartner. Daigneault knocked Numminen to the ice with a forearm as the red light flashed. All that did, though, was draw attention to the fact Daigneault had been beaten again.
The loss at home was the Ducks' first since the champion Colorado Avalanche beat them 5-2 on Feb. 2. Wilson thinks they've played better in Phoenix in the series, despite being outscored there 5-1, so maybe it's good news the teams go back there for Game 6 on Sunday.
Photo: (Color) ROENICK