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Grizzlies fall in opener to Mighty Ducks


Now skating under the watchful eye of NHL parent team Phoenix and wearing the Coyotes' brick red colors, that's the new slogan for the all-new Utah Grizzlies, who faced off for the first time in the new uniforms with new players and new coaches Wednesday night in the E Center.

And see red they did.

As in a slight deficit.

The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks ruined Utah's debut in red and Pat Conacher's debut as Utah coach by winning in an overtime sudden-death second shootout when Jeffrey Lupul, who'd sent the game into overtime with the last goal of regulation, made a shot as Cincinnati's first shooter of the second shootout and Utah's Jon Sim, who also had a regulation goal and had opened Utah's first shootout session with a goal, missed.

That gave Cincinnati a 4-3 win and two points in the new season's standings.

The Grizzlies got a point for the overtime loss.

The two teams meet again Friday in the E Center, this game starting at the usual 7 p.m. time.

Wednesday the clubs gave the crowd of 5,079 about as much excitement as they could, going into the extra sessions before finally deciding it.

Cincinnati never led during regulation and overtime but tied it at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 and tied in the first shootout as well.

It was one of two games to open the 69th American Hockey League season Wednesday night — on a night when the locked-out NHL was supposed to begin. In the actual AHL opener because it was on the East Coast, the Manitoba Moose defeated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6-3 behind the relief goaltending of former Grizzly Wade Flaherty.

Conacher's very first Utah Grizzly starting lineup had Jean-Marc Pelletier in goal, with defenders Matthew Spiller and Jon Callahan opening in front of him and a forward line of Erik Westrum at right wing, Kiel McLeod at center and Doug Doull on the left. The 6-foot-6 McLeod played in Springfield last season, and Westrum and Doull played at least part of last season in the NHL with Phoenix and Boston, respectively.

Doull had the honor of scoring the first goal of the Phoenix-Utah era, rebounding a wrist shot from the right point by Dustin Wood in a play that developed after a faceoff in Cincinnati territory at 16:47 of the first period. Utah's first power play goal was a quick little wraparound by Jon Sim after Jeff Taffe nudged the puck to him from the right-wing corner to give Utah a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. It was Utah's only power-play shot of the period, while Cincinnati had the bulk of its 16 shots in the period thanks to five+ power plays in the middle skate that ended with the Ducks having a man advantage into the third period.

It got worse as Grizzly Nikos Tselios was called for slashing a minute into play, giving the Ducks a second 5-on-3 opportunity.

They capitalized on the Tselios penalty, 5-on-4, when Joel Perrault tapped in a puck—while falling over backward in the slot—that came off teammate Jeffrey Lupul at 2:05 to tie the game.

The Grizz did that one better moments later when Fredrik Sjostrom was taken down behind the Duck goal by Cincinnati's Kurtis Foster, who protested while the puck skittered to Jason Jaspers, who while falling was able to feed a falling Joe Callahan in the low right-wing circle for a shot that got past goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. It was the rookie defenseman's first pro goal despite 13 games in Springfield last season.

And for 6 1/2 minutes, it gave Utah the advantage again until Lupul picked up his second score of the night, tapping in a puck on Pelletier's doorstep after it eluded a Grizzly stick and clearing attempt at 13:06.

First official scratches for a game under Conacher were Jonathan Zion, Mike Stutzel and Sheldon Keefe.

For Cincinnati, Zenon Konopka, who spent some of last season with Utah, was the starting center. Defenseman Tim Wedderburn, another off last season's Grizzly roster, was a scratch.