ANAHEIM, Ca. Sunday night was the Anaheim Ducks’ Fan Appreciation Night, signifying their last home game of the season. More than 2,000 prizes worth in excess of $80,000 were given out during the course of evening, including team photos, jerseys off the back and a new car.
Despite the goodies, most Ducks fans would be more satisfied with a win. The Ducks’ season started off well for the first couple of weeks, but it quickly turned sour as the team soon found themselves twenty points out of playoff contention – a result which cost coach Randy Carlyle his job.
When the calendar year changed, seemingly so did the Ducks season. Eight weeks later, they were only four points back of a playoff spot and had a chance at pulling off the near-impossible.
However, Ryan Getzlaf and co. found themselves in rough waters towards the end of the season and knew heading into Sunday night that they had no chance of making the playoffs. But they knew they had to give their fans one last win before finishing the season on the road.
Their opponent were the Edmonton Oilers, who also had no chance of making the playoffs this year.
The Oilers were the first to strike, a mere fifteen seconds into the first period, off a turnover in the Ducks’ defensive end. Teemu Hartikainen tallied his first of the year, and six minutes later, Finland forward nailed his second one, giving the Oilers an early two-goal lead.
With just under six minutes remaining in the period, compatriot Teemu Selanne tipped in his 26th goal of the season off a pass from Niklas Hagman. The Honda Center crowd burst into a chant of “One More Year” almost instantaneously. This has become a tradition for Ducks fans as they always fear that the 41-year-old will choose retirement over returning to the Ducks for another season.
“It’s unbelievable,” exclaimed Selanne, who leads the team with 65 points. “It’s almost funny that they’re chanting that for an old guy like me.
“I’ve always had a very special relationship with the fans,” he continued. “It’s an honor to play for the great fans that we have here.”
About a minute after the Selanne goal, there was a skirmish near the Oilers’ net that ended with two players from each team in the box, and the period ended with the Ducks down 2-1.
The second period was scoreless, but just over five minutes into it a fight broke out Cam Barker and Getzlaf. It was clear that neither of these teams were going down without a fight.
Seven minutes into the third, fight number three broke out, this one between Colten Teubert and Sheldon Brookbank.
The Ducks still trailed by one and as time ticked down, they just kept firing shots at the net. With just six seconds left to play, Selanne took one last run at the net, but failed to get the equalizer and Oilers held on for the victory.
“We like having him around and we’ll take him as long as he’ll stay,” Getzlaf said of Selanne.
Coach Bruce Boudreau added: “He takes care of himself off the ice. He trains right. You do that and you have God’s gift of the ability that he has, you can last a long time. His passion for the sport is as much as I’ve seen.”
Whether Selanne will return for another seen, we’ll have to wait and see. But until then, fans can continue to watch the Finnish Flash and the Ducks close out their season with a three game road trip beginning in Vancouver on Tuesday.