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An early playoff preview?

by John Kreiser / NHL.com
A few thoughts as we congratulate the Philadelphia Phillies for winning the World Series.

Playoff intensity in October — One thing the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings could agree on: Their game Wednesday night gave the sellout crowd at Honda Center its money's worth.

"What a game. Awesome," was the appraisal of Teemu Selanne, who had a hat trick in the Ducks' 5-4 overtime victory in a meeting of the last two Stanley Cup champs.

It was a game that featured comebacks by both teams, Selanne's hat trick, a 5-assist night for Ryan Getzlaf, 2 goals each by Detroit stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, comebacks by both teams — and, finally, a controversial game-winning goal by Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin, who swatted a puck out of the air at crossbar level and into the net at 1:39 of overtime. The goal was allowed to stand after video review.

"It was just instinct," Beauchemin said. "The puck was right there. I just tried to tap it in. You don’t wait for it to come lower then the crossbar. You just hit it and hope it's good."

The intensity shown by both teams belied the calendar. The Ducks won their fifth in a row to move over .500 at 6-5-0. The Wings, now 7-1-2, lost for the first time in 6 road games.

"It was a good game," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They've got a good team. We've got a good team. I don't think we stole anything — we worked hard to get a point."

Selanne's hat trick was the 21st of his career and 12th with the Ducks. He got all 3 goals on the power play, including a pair with Anaheim skating 5-on-3.

"Every goal is special, but obviously hat tricks don’t come very often," Selanne said. "It's a great feeling."

Practice makes perfect
Niklas Hagman had been working on a new shootout move in practice. He picked the right night to put it to the test — and it passed.

Hagman's slick backhander in the fourth round of Wednesday night's shootout against New Jersey gave Toronto a 6-5 victory at the Prudential Center. Hagman skated into the New Jersey zone, pivoted and whipped a backhander through Martin Brodeur's legs before giving the future Hall of Famer a snow shower.

''I decided I was going to try something else and I felt pretty confident with it,'' Hagman said, ''I didn't want to put snow in his face. That's why I felt a little bad. I didn't want to celebrate too much. I didn't want to be cocky.''

Though the Leafs outshot New Jersey 48-31 and outplayed the Devils for most of the night, the shootout victory had to rank as a surprising outcome. Brodeur is the winningest goaltender in shootout history; Toronto's Vesa Toskala had stopped less than half the attempts he'd faced in his 11 previous shootouts.

But Toskala stopped 3 of New Jersey's 4 shooters, while Tomas Kaberle scored in the third round before Hagman won it.

Coach Ron Wilson pulled Toskala after overtime in last week's game against Anaheim, using Curtis Joseph for the shootout. He didn't make that change this time — but admitted he nearly changed goaltenders during regulation.

''To be honest, I had the hook ready a few times,'' Wilson said. ''In the end, it worked out. He made some huge saves, especially the 4-on-3 penalty kill in the overtime. That seemed to give him some confidence.''

That's one
Tobias Stephan had some nerves in his second NHL start — he stumbled early in the game when he went behind the net to play the puck. But with a little help from his friends, er, teammates, the 24-year-old Swiss rookie now owns an NHL victory.

 
 
Stephan stopped 19 shots for his first victory as the Dallas Stars beat the Minnesota Wild, 4-2.

"We wanted to help out Toby, who may be nervous his first game, do as good a job as we could in front of him," said center Brad Richards, whose goal at 15:39 of the first period put the Stars up 3-1. "Obviously, a lot of emphasis the way we played lately has not been up to par defensively, so that was a better job against a good team."

Stephan got the start because starter Marty Turco has struggled behind a porous defense. Coach Dave Tippett ripped Turco and his teammates after Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to Washington, and decided after 3 days of practice to give Stephan a chance to play.

It paid off with a win, though Tippett isn't saying whether Stephan will get another chance when the Stars visit Chicago on Friday.

"He's got the first win under his belt," Tippett said. "He had zero wins in the NHL. So he has to build that confidence in himself and from his teammates."

Stephan knows that the life of a backup can mean a lot of sitting and waiting — even after your first NHL win.

"That’s my job," Stephan said. "I just try to make the best of it and stay focused and be ready when called upon. I feel good and it was good to get the win tonight."

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

Contact John Kreiser at jkreiser@nhl.com


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