The Ducks had to vanquish the Ottawa Senators in five games in the Stanley Cup Final to capture California’s first Cup back in 2007. But to get there, Anaheim (almost fittingly) had to knock off longtime playoff rival Detroit in a heated Western Conference Final.
Game 5 of that series, played seven years ago on this date, featured two of the biggest goals in Ducks history, as Scott Niedermayer tied the game with under a minute left in regulation, and Teemu Selanne won it in overtime at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
We take a look back at that unforgettable series through the eyes of two of its most significant characters.
After knocking off the Minnesota in five games in the opening round and Vancouver in five games in the second round, the Ducks were set to face Detroit, a frequent playoff opponent. The Red Wings swept the Ducks out of the playoffs in 1997 and 1999, but Anaheim got the upper hand with a sweep in the ’03 opening round on the way to its first Final appearance.
Teemu Selanne: Detroit has always been tough for us, and we knew if we could get by them, we would have a good chance to win the Cup. It was a tough series and it went back and forth. They had a very good team, and they always raise their level in the playoffs. But we knew we had a great team too, and we knew going in we had a good chance.
The Ducks and Red Wings split the first four games of the series, with Anaheim winning Game 4 at Honda Center, 5-3. The series shifted back to Joe Louis Arena for Game 5, a difficult building to play in for opponents and a place where the Ducks have traditionally struggled.
Selanne: It’s not an easy building to play in, because of the history and the culture and the fans there. We haven’t had a lot of success there, but it’s a great building to play in. There is a lot of pride, so that’s why winning there is pretty special.
The only goal of the first 59 minutes of Game 5 came from defenseman Andres Lilja, who ironically would play a major role later in the game.
Selanne: First of all, I don’t think we played a very good game. We were down 1-0 with a minute to go.
The Ducks sent goalie J.S. Giguere to the bench for an extra attacker in the final minute, as the Ducks desperately looked to tie it.
Scott Niedermayer: It was late in the game, and I really enjoyed those moments, where you can just throw caution to the wind and just try and score a goal. You’re not worried about the other end of the rink at that moment, and that suits my skill and talents as a player. A lot of times, I’d just get in front of the net and do crazy stuff, and the next thing you know something gets opened up for someone else because I’m causing havoc.
With 47.3 seconds left, Niedermayer took a pass from Selanne in the slot and fired a desperation shot toward the net. The puck glanced off the stick shaft of Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and fluttered over the shoulder of goalie Dominik Hasek.
|“You hear it a lot: It’s never a bad play to put the puck on the net. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t pretty. It was not a Teemu Selanne shot. I just put it on net and got lucky.” |
Niedermayer: It was just one of those plays where I got myself near the net and just got lucky. You hear it a lot: It’s never a bad play to put the puck on the net. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t pretty. It was not a Teemu Selanne shot. I just put it on net and got lucky.
Selanne: That gave us new life, and for Detroit, it was just shock for them and their fans. You almost felt that. We knew now it was our time.
The teams traded chances in overtime, but an opportunity opened up just under 12 minutes into the extra session. Lilja was hounded by Ducks center Andy McDonald in his own end and coughed up the puck to Selanne, who went to the backhand before flipping a shot over a sprawled Hasek.
Selanne: I was forechecking behind the net and their defenseman came around the net and Andy Mac came up right to him. He got confused and lost the puck. I got the puck and … I remember that goal really well. I’ve been practicing that move for years and years, since I was a little boy. Seeing that water bottle pop up was just unbelievable.
A packed house of 20,003 fans was collectively stunned by what had transpired.
Selanne: I remember how silent that place got. It was almost scary, like you could hear people breathing.
There is debate among Ducks fans on whether that goal, or Niedermayer’s game-tying score in regulation, is the biggest goal in Ducks history.
Selanne: I do think it’s the biggest game in Ducks history. As far as that goal, people can have their opinion, but I will say that both goals were huge.
Niedermayer: I don’t know. They’re both big goals. One doesn’t mean anything without the other, I guess [laughs]. I’ll say that.
|“I remember that goal really well. I’ve been practicing that move for years and years, since I was a little boy. Seeing that water bottle pop up was just unbelievable.” |
Selanne: Absolutely. That’s the right answer. Scotty’s a smart man.
The Ducks came back to Honda Center for Game 6 and took a three-goal lead into the third period. But Detroit came roaring back, and Anaheim had to hang on in the final seconds to secure a 4-3 win and advance to the Final.
Selanne: I remember it was 4-1 after the second period, and we thought it was going to be over. All of a sudden in the last eight minutes it was 4-2, then 4-3 and they still had a couple of good chances at the end.
We definitely didn’t want to go to a Game 7 in Detroit. I wasn’t on the ice, but those last two minutes were probably the longest two minutes of my career. I think we had two penalties in the last eight minutes, and it we had to dig down deep. I was shaking, hoping nothing was going to happen.
Two weeks later, the Ducks knocked off Ottawa in five games in the Final to capture the Cup.
Selanne: Ottawa had a good team, but we knew the Final would be almost easier than beating Detroit. I think the confidence we got from that Detroit series carried into the series with Ottawa, and it showed.