Friday night was rare evening in southern California, it hailed, scattering from Los Angeles to San Diego. Many citizens were beyond confused because three days earlier it was 80 degrees and sunny.
However, there was another event that was occurring during that could potentially lead to rarities as well. The Anaheim Ducks took on their cross-town rival, the Los Angeles Kings for a chance at clinching a playoff berth.
The Kings had clinched their spot in game against the Phoenix Coyotes earlier in the week. However, since the Ducks inaugural season in 1993-94 the two southern California teams had never both made it into the playoffs in the same season. Some fans saw it as some SoCal hockey curse.
To make it even more interesting the San Jose Sharks had already clinched their playoff berth, so if the Ducks could pull out a win against the Kings, all three California hockey teams would be representing in the Western conference playoffs, a huge nod to west coast hockey especially taking into consideration that only two of Canada’s six teams appear to participating in the playoffs this year.
The Ducks knew it was going to be a battle, but they were ready for the fight. The Kings struck first a little over eleven minutes through the first period on an effort by Ryan Smyth and that remained to be the only goal scored in the first period. Having watched the Ducks’ recent theatrics, most fans were not too worried.
Teemu Selanne netted his 30th goal of the season at 9:55 in the second, tying the game up for what was bound to be a mêlée of a third period. Once again, Selanne came up with what became the game-winner and playoff-clincher for the Ducks just six minutes into the final period.
And when the buzzer sounded signifying the end of the game, the Honda Center filled with ear-to-ear grins and joyful sounds. After a misstep last season, the Ducks were back in the playoffs and California was going to be well-represented in the playoffs.
“I’m proud of both teams,” the veteran Selanne stated. “We need this. Obviously, for hockey here in southern California, this is going to be a huge boost.” However, he was not looking past Saturday’s rematch against the Kings in Los Angeles. “Tomorrow is another game where we can improve our standing a little bit and maybe get a better seed.”
“That is the beauty and fun of playing with players like Teemu, talented guys who don’t need too many chances to score,” said fellow linemate Saku Koivu, who got the assist on Selanne’s game-winner. “To get a big one like that in the third to clinch a playoff spot, it really doesn’t get any bigger than that.”
“All I know is we are awful lucky to have him and again, he delivered in a clutch situation tonight,” head coach Randy Carlyle added about Selanne. “He has done that for this organization, both on and off the ice and he continues to deliver. He’s happy. He’s in his happy place.”
One would imagine that most, if not the entire Ducks roster, was happy after this one. At least, for a short while.
The Ducks will face the Kings in their last game of the regular season on Saturday night in LA.