|"Dude, what the hell just happened?"
The inevitable became official at 9:03 p.m. Pacific time last night.
When the Dallas Stars finished off a 3-1 victory in Edmonton, it hammered home the final nail in the Ducks' coffin, mathematically eliminating them from the 2012 postseason.
But as we looked down at our laptops and phones and got the expected-but-still-sombering news, we ultimately looked back up to the ice and saw an Anaheim team that hardly looked like a non-playoff contender. The Ducks were at that time in the middle of beating a good Sharks team for the fifth time in six games
. Teemu Selanne
netted a pretty tip-in goal
just before that Dallas score became final to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead that eventually turned into a 3-1 final thanks to the weirdest goal we've seen in a long time.
With Antti Niemi sent to the bench for an extra attacker, Corey Perry
collected the puck at center ice with an empty net in front of him. Instead of firing the shot, he unselfishly dropped the puck to linemate and friend Ryan Getzlaf
, sitting on nine goals since March 2. Getzlaf, with pressure from Brent Burns, actually missed the net with a backhand. The puck hit the end boards and came back to Perry, whose shot was denied by Dan Boyle's slide into the net, knocking it off its pegs. Officials deemed Boyle intentionally knocked the net off and awarded an automatic goal to Perry, leaving him with a sheepish grin and Getzlaf with an incredulous one. (According to Rule 63.6: "When the goal post has been displaced deliberately by the defending team when their goaltender has been removed for an extra attacker thereby preventing an impending goal by the attacking team, the Referee shall award a goal to the attacking team.")
Later in the locker room, Perry walked from the workout room toward curious reporters and said with a smile, "I have no idea. That's all I got."
So in their last game, the Ducks have a puck that goes in the net and is ruled no goal, then three nights later get a goal when the puck never goes in. It's a strange game, and a strange way to end what was a rather gratifying win against a bitter rival, one that knocked the Sharks all the way from the Pacific Division lead into eighth in the West.
But when that victory comes on the same night the Ducks are officially eliminated from the playoffs, the painful question lingers: Where were wins like that in the first three months of this season?
"I think this team really deserved more than we’re getting right now," said Selanne, fully conveying the bittersweet sentiment of the night. "We all know the first half was so bad. The second half we had to do some miracles. It doesn’t really happen in this league very often. That is very disappointing.
"Hopefully everybody remembers this when it’s October and November. Those points, you can’t get them back right now. This league is tough. You have to be consistent and be able to play 82 games. That is why some players and teams are better than others. They find a way to do the job every night."
He paused. "The first half," he said, "we bailed out."
Whether Selanne is part of that team in October, he wouldn't say, but he did joke that he'd be around to remind them about it whether he's in uniform or not. For now, we'll watch these last five games and hope they're not his
last five games.
Meanwhile, we'll keep one eye on the out-of-town scores and those Western Conference standings. And if the Sharks don't make the playoffs for the first time in eight years, we'll have the satisfaction of knowing the Ducks had a lot to do with that.