ANAHEIM, Calif. – This was the Paul Kariya the Anaheim Mighty Ducks have been waiting for – the dominating force that can single-handedly control the outcome of a game.
Kariya capped his third career hat trick with a penalty shot in the second period Wednesday night and tied his own club record with a four-point first period in an 8-3 victory over the Florida Panthers.
“It’s nice to score that many goals, but I haven’t produced in the clutch so far,” Kariya said. “When the games have been close, Teemu Selanne, Steve Rucchin and I have got to be there scoring the big goals.
“We haven’t done that yet this year, so we hope we can get some confidence under our belts as a team from this, so that we can play the game with a little bit more fun and emotion,” he said.
Kariya has 12 goals and 11 assists in 17 games since ending a 32-game holdout on Dec. 11, when he signed a two-year, $14 million deal that was that was pro-rated to $12 million because of the games he missed.
“It’s been such a whirlwind since I came back,” Kariya said. “I just have to take a step back and think about what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right. I want to set some new goals, in terms of what I want to accomplish.”
Selanne, the MVP in Sunday’s All-Star Game, ended a five-game goal-scoring drought with two goals and raised his league-leading total to 35.
Joe Sacco and Warren Rychel also scored and Matt Cullen got his first NHL goal, helping the Ducks win for only the fifth time in their last 22 games and set a club record for goals in one game.
Florida, winless in its last eight (0-4-4), surrendered more than three goals for the first time in 15 games. Radek Dvorak and Ed Jovanovski scored for the Panthers against Guy Hebert, who made 38 saves en route to his 100th victory with the Ducks.
Kariya’s penalty shot against Kevin Weekes was only the second attempted by an Anaheim player in the team’s five-year history, and the first since Sacco beat Montreal’s Jocelyn Thibault in a 4-3 overtime loss at Anaheim on Nov. 12.
Kariya was awarded the free breakaway by referee Kerry Fraser after Weekes lunged to stop Kariya’s solo attempt and lost the grip on his stick.