By Adam Brady (firstname.lastname@example.org)
AnaheimDucks.com ANAHEIM – After waiting one year and 81 games to lock up a coveted return to the playoffs, the Ducks finally clinched it with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the rival Kings in front of a sellout crowd at Honda Center.
Teemu Selanne, the ageless 40-year-old who has once again hinted at a retirement nobody in hockey wants, made sure this wasn’t his last game in Anaheim, scoring the Ducks’ only two goals in leading them to victory.
“We believed it could happen,” Selanne said during an in-arena postgame interview after chants of “one more year!” from the crowd died down. “And good things happen when you believe.”
Later, he added, "It has been a grind for the last three months. I really believed that this team deserved to be in the playoffs. This was a big step forward. Now we can breathe a little bit."
Anaheim, which has one more regular season game left, with these same Kings tomorrow night in LA, will be playing that game for playoff seeding rather than trying to get in. Their postseason berth is the fifth in the last six years after missing out last season.
"Tomorrow is another game where we can improve our standing a little bit and maybe get a better seed," Selanne said. "We are going to take tomorrow’s game serious too."
It's the first time in NHL history the Ducks and Kings have made the playoffs the same season. "I’m proud of both teams," Selanne said. "We need this. For hockey here in Southern California, this is going to be a huge boost."
In a game where space on the ice was at a minimum, Selanne gave the Ducks a huge 2-1 lead with the help of Saku Koivu 5:52 into the third period. On the rush, Koivu got knocked down by Kings defenseman Matt Greene, but still managed to swing the puck to his left as he was falling, and Selanne punched it into the open net.
"I knew before I made that pass that Teemu was there," said Koivu of his longtime linemate. "I was able to get it through and find him. Their goaltender had to respect where the puck was before. He didn’t have enough time to come across and Teemu was able to put it in.
"That is the beauty and fun of playing with players like Teemu, talented guys who don’t need too many chances to score goals. To get a big one like that in the third to clinch a playoff spot, it really doesn’t get any bigger than that."
The Ducks managed to hold the lead the rest of the way, thanks in part to Dan Ellis, who had 23 saves on the evening. Ellis got the start when Ray Emery couldn’t go after suffering an undisclosed lower body injury two nights ago against San Jose. Emery was scratched and Jonas Hiller was the backup tonight.
The Kings sent goalie Jonathan Quick to the bench for an extra attacker with a little more than a minute left, and the Ducks missed the open net three different times trying to put the game away. Corey Perry had a shot blocked with only Drew Doughty in front of him and later missed wide from inside the blue line. Ryan Getzlaf did the same a little later, but it was irrelevant, as the clocked wound down to a final horn nearly drowned out by the roaring crowd.
In a tightly played first 40 minutes, Los Angeles got the game’s first goal from Ryan Smyth at 11:55 of the opening frame. A Dustin Brown shot off a Jarret Stoll feed kicked off Ellis into the crease and Smyth swept it in.
The Ducks finally got on the board halfway through the second period, when a Luca Sbisa shot from just inside the blue line caromed hard off Quick. Selanne picked up the puck and whipped it top shelf for his 30th of the year.
Anaheim could have sealed a playoff berth with a Dallas loss in regulation in Colorado, but the Stars won 3-2 in a game that ended in middle of the second period in Anaheim. The Ducks could conceivably finish as high as fourth with a win tomorrow night, but would need some help from other games around the league.
"It is amazing that you have to play 81 games to find out you finally made the playoffs," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "We are very fortunate. All the credit should go to our players for the commitment they have made over the last six months, specifically off of our poor start. We were 0-3 in October right off the bat. We had to take a long look at ourselves. They went out and did it. They have accomplished a lot in the last little while."
With tonight’s win, the Anaheim Ducks have clinched a playoff berth for the fifth time in six years and eighth time in franchise history (also 1996-97, 1998-99, 2002-03, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 & 2008-09).The club’s 46 wins are the third-most in club history (48 in 2006-07 & 47 in 2007-08). The Ducks have reached the 97-point plateau for the fourth time in six years (also 110 in 2006-07, 102 in 2007-08 & 98 in 2005-06).
The Ducks have won two straight games, nine of their last 12 (9-3-0) and 13 of their last 18 (13-5-0). The club is also 28-13-1 over the last 42 contests.
Anaheim completes the 2010-11 regular season campaign at Honda Center with a 26-13-2 record, earning 54 of a possible 82 standings points (.634 win percentage). The club’s 26 wins at HOME ties for the second-most in franchise history (also 2005-06 and 2006-07). The Ducks won five of their last six games (5-1-0) and nine of their last 12 (9-3-0) at Honda Center.
With two goals tonight (31 on the season), Teemu Selanne has reached the 30-goal mark for the 10th time in his career and first time since 2006-07 when he scored 48. Selanne has also moved him past Denis Savard and Dave Andreychuk for sole possession of 27th in all-time points (637-703=1,340 points in 1,258 career contests). 25 of Selanne’s 31 goals have come this season in a tied or one-goal game (including both of his goals tonight). His 31-49=80 points this season mark his highest-scoring campaign since 2006-07 (48-46=94). Selanne has earned 10-6=16 points in the last 10 games and 10-9=19 in 15 games. He ranks tied for eighth in the NHL in points (with Detroit’s Zetterberg).
Dan Ellis won his seventh game for the Ducks in 10 starts for the club (7-2-1). In those 10 starts, Ellis has stopped 245-of-270 shots for a .907 SV% and 2.52 GAA (25 GA/596 MIN).
Tonight’s attendance was 17,587, a sellout, including standing-room only tickets.
3rd Period 20:00 - END OF GAME - Ducks clinch playoff spot with a 2-1 victory.
19:58 - Getzlaf just misses wide from the blue line, but it's okay, as the clock winds down on the Kings.
19:40 - Perry misses wide from the blue line looking at another empty netter.
19:30 - Perry has it with only Doughty in front of him, but he blocks the shot.
19:00 - Quick to the bench.
18:30 - Ellis covers with 1:30 left. Stomach in knots again.
18:04 - Ducks hold the puck in the corner while Smyth hacks away at it. Official finally whistles it dead.
16:50 - Timeout with 3:10 left with a sweet remix of "Run This Town" by Jay-Z. Like it.
16:45 - On the run, Getzlaf gets it to Beleskey on left wing and he cuts in front of the defense, beats Quick and rings it off the inside of the post before getting knocked down. THISCLOSE to making this a two-goal lead.
15:30 - 4 1/2 go to and the Ducks trying to keep it out of their end.
13:08 - After the Kings are whistled for offside, Brown gets tangled with Blake and falls hard. He just got back on the ice after the Lydman hit. He's having a tough time.
12:00 - Ryan has a chance to score when Quick gets stuck behind the net, but the puck squirts off his blade. He's not happy.
Attendance is 17,587, a sellout including standing room only.
10:08 - Ellis stops and holds it till the whistle. Timeout with 9:52 left, the biggest 9:52 of the season by a mile.
7:45 - Ryan gets on a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Getzlaf, but passes up the shot to make a pass that gets knocked away. Could have been huge.
Guys in front of us trying to get a "One more year!" chant going, and somehow it's not taking.
6:11 - ANA Penalty - Toni Lydman, 2 min. Lydman puts a shoulder into Brown as he's chasing the puck into the corner. Knocked him down pretty good too.
5:54 - ANAHEIM GOAL - TEEMU SELANNE - Koivu makes an incredible play to keep the puck despite behind tripped by Greene. As he's falling down, he somehow swings the puck to his right to a charging Selanne, who punches it into the open net. Second of the game for Selanne and the Ducks get a huge goal to go up 2-1.
5:34 - Selanne picks off a pass at the Anaheim blue line and sprints to the other end, tagging a shot that Quick takes in.
5:15 - Lydman knocks Moller down hard near the blue line as the Kings power play runs out.
3:18 - ANA Penalty - Teemu Selanne, 2 min. boarding. Selanne bumps a Kings player into the wall. Could have gone either way.
2:20 - Beleskey, playing with Perry and Getzlaf, gets a couple on not. One almost trickles in off Quick.
1:00 - Ponikarovsky goes hard into Ellis, but he stands his ground.
0:45 - Selanne nearly gets one on a nice lead pass on the rush by Koivu. Blake gets his stick stuck in Quick after the whistle and Quick rips it away and shoves Blake. Little scrum results, but no penalties.
0:00 - Off and running in the third. Nervous time.
Five people have a chance to win a Honda Odyssey by choosing keys at random and trying them in the door. The first guy to go opens that bad boy up and he wins it!
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Ducks get a goal from Selanne in another tight period and it's 1-1. Third should be interesting.
19:10 - Bad giveaway by Beauchemin behind the net, but Ducks get away with it.
15:55 - ANA Penalty - Jarkko Ruutu, 10 min. misconduct. Ruutu causing trouble after the whistle.
15:55 - Ellis moves out to knock down Doughty's point shot and hold it.
14:20 - Stoll slap shot right after the draw rings the post. Yeesh.
14:16 - ANA Penalty - Luca Sbisa, 2 min. tripping. Sbisa takes down Richardson behind the net.
12:32 - Ducks again can't convert against the No. 2 PK in the league.
Dallas just won in Colorado. Ducks have to do it themselves. Again.
11:20 - Stoll runs after the puck and nearly gets one shorthanded as Fowler didn't get back.
10:32 - LAK Penalty - Brad Richardson, 2 min. slashing. Ryan gets the puck in front behind Richardson, who commits the infraction. Ryan wanted more because he lost the puck off his stick with Quick lunging and losing his goalie stick.
9:55 - ANAHEIM GOAL - TEEMU SELANNE - The Ducks keep it pinned in the Los Angeles end for awhile, and it finally pays off as Sbisa fires a slap shot from just in front of the blue line that caroms hard off Quick. It ends up on the blade of Selanne, who whips it up high for his 30th of the season. It's 1-1 and this crowd has come alive.
5:22 - Perry charges in on net and the puck squirts away just wide.
4:27 - ANA Penalty - Jarkko Ruutu and LAK Penalty - Dustin Penner, 2 min. each unsportsmanlike conduct. The two dudes try to cause some mischief.
2:59 - Princeton boys Parros and Westgarth drop the gloves, with Parros landing a pretty good right, but not knocking down Westgarth. They tangle for another minute before Parros tries to wrestle him down unsuccessfully and they run out of gas. I think they were arguing about The Modernity of Primitive India: Adivasi Ethnicity in Jharkhand And the Formation of a National Modern.
2:10 - Perry picks up a loose one in the slot, spins and fires off Quick.
0:00 - Here we go in the second?
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - In an uneven first period, the Ducks give up a goal to Smyth and trail 1-0. Outshooting Kings 8-7.
19:20 - Selanne gets pulled down by Ponikarovsky. Crowd wanted a call.
16:57 - Defensive breakdown as Simmonds get the puck with no one around him right in front of the net, but Ellis lunges at him to make the save after he waited a second to shoot.
16:05 - Koivu with a nice little feed in front to Selanne, but he just misses it.
Someone in the crowd seems to have a laser pointer, as a green light showed up on the ice for about a second.
11:22 - LOS ANGELES GOAL - RYAN SMYTH - Stoll picks off the puck behind the net and feeds in front to Brown, whose shots comes off Ellis into the crease and Smyth is there to sweep it in. Kings jump out in front 1-0.
8:30 - Selanne loses his stick, goes to the bench for another one, and then nearly one-times one home. Wow.
7:27 - LAK Penalty - Drew Doughty, 2 min. holding. Doughty won't let go of Koivu behind the Kings net.
7:01 - Getzlaf delivers a good shoulder hit on Martinez at the blue line.
5:00 - Game just feels weird right now. Can't explain it. Feels almost in slow motion. Neither team doing much so far.
Good-looking crowd in here tonight, just waiting for something to scream about.
Ducks can clinch tonight before this one is over if Dallas loses in regulation in Colorado, but they're up 2-0 in the second.