Game 5 of that series, played 13 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 Selannewon it in overtime at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
We take a look back at that unforgettable series through the eyes of some 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, Ducks winger: 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.
Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks center: We didn't want to go down 3-2 going back home because then we knew we had to come back for a Game 7 if we wanted to win this thing. We went into that game with the mentality that we needed to win.
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.
David McNab, Ducks Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations: We did not have our best game. Detroit played really well, and if you go back and watch the game, Detroit was ahead 1-0 for what seemed like forever, and they had what seemed like a million chances to make it 2-0. But Giguere was outstanding.
J.S. Giguere, Ducks goalie: I think at that point, for me, personally, it was trying to keep giving us a chance.
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.
McNab: There were a lot of ways that we could have been down 2-0 before we scored what really was a fortunate goal in the last minute. Of all of Giguere's great games, that was as important a game as he's ever played because he really kept us in it at a time when Detroit could have gone up 2-0 and then who knows what happens from there. It really was the entire game that sometimes gets forgotten about and Giguere's performance at a time when it was 1-0 is totally forgotten.
Anaheim was able to control the puck in the Detroit zone with under a minute to play, looking for any way to score the tying goal.
Scott Niedermayer, Ducks defenseman and captain: 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.
Todd Marchant, Ducks forward: Well it starts with, I believe, [Detroit winger] Johan Franzen not getting the puck out. That keeps our chances alive.
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. All four players who figured prominently in the sequence are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, as is Chris Pronger, who had kept the puck in the zone and got it to Selanne.
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.
Getzlaf: The reason he won the Conn Smythe was moments like these where we're down late in the game and Scotty ends up scoring a big goal to send us to overtime. It was kind of a scramble play, and Scotty was down at the goal line for some reason and ended up putting it in the net.
Marchant: I'm actually on the ice, down by the goal line. Scott Niedermayer shoots the puck, Hall of Famer, It goes off of Nick Lidstrom's stick, Hall of Famer, up and over Dominik Hasek, Hall of Famer. If we don't score that goal, it would be that much more difficult to win the series. All these things that have to fall into place for a team to be able to advance like that.
Giguere: It seems like every time we had a big play needed, or a big goal needed, Scotty would step up and do it. That's the type of leader he was. At the end there, with a minute left, we still have a chance, and then there it is. Scotty comes up with a big goal, and once you go in overtime in playoff, anything can happen. It was a big goal, if you don't score that goal, you don't know where that series can go. It can go all the way to Game 7, and then you don't know what's gonna happen. So it was a great moment.
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.
Getzlaf: That was a typical Teemu Selanne goal, where most guys wouldn't take that shot at a backend like he did. I think that Andy did a great job tracking the puck down and forcing that turnover, and Teemu jumped on it and capitalized like he usually did that season. That was a huge moment for us.
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.
Getzlaf: Yeah, I remember the dead sound in the Joe.
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.
Selanne: Absolutely. That's the right answer. Scotty's a smart man.
Marchant: I remember the feeling in the locker room after the game. It was a feeling of accomplishment but we knew that we weren't finished. We knew that we had one more step to go to get to the next level, and we'd have four more steps to get to the ultimate level. But on the plane ride home, I remember we were confident. We knew that, You know what? We're not going back to Detroit. We're gonna finish it right now so that we can move on. We just knew that if we won Game 5, we were gonna win Game 6 and we weren't gonna go back to Detroit. That's what we did.
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 Stanley Cup 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.
Getzlaf: No offense to the Ottawa Senators, but that Detroit series was our Stanley Cup, so to speak, at that time.
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.