It took a lot longer than they expected -- 81 games -- but the Anaheim Ducks
finally locked up a playoff berth.
"We’re in. You work all year. You start in September with your group and you have visions of playing in the playoffs. It’s a marathon that we just are about to complete with one more game in Phoenix. It again is an important game for us from a standpoint of improving our position. It’s amazing that all of these games have had a certain degree of importance. Tomorrow is no different."
-- Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
The 2007 Stanley Cup champs assured themselves of a trip to the postseason just by getting to overtime against Dallas on Friday night. They gave the sellout crowd at the Honda Center a little more to cheer about when Teemu Selanne scored the decisive shootout goal for a 4-3 victory.
The Ducks now have 90 points -- the same as St. Louis, which beat Columbus to wrap up a playoff berth -- and own seventh place because they have more wins. By reaching overtime, Anaheim ended Minnesota's playoff hopes -- hours after the Wild downed Nashville 8-4 to send the Predators home for the summer.
"We’re in," a relieved Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "You work all year. You start in September with your group and you have visions of playing in the playoffs. It’s a marathon that we just are about to complete with one more game in Phoenix. It again is an important game for us from a standpoint of improving our position. It’s amazing that all of these games have had a certain degree of importance. Tomorrow is no different."
The full house of 17,531 was ready to celebrate a playoff-clinching win as the final minute of regulation ticked off the clock, only to see Dallas' Steve Ott snap a wrist shot from the high slot past Jonas Hiller with 13.1 seconds left in regulation.
That goal sent a gasp through the crowd -- one that hadn't gone away by the time regulation ran out, assuring Anaheim of a playoff berth. But after a scoreless overtime, Ryan Getzlaf countered James Neal's goal by scoring in the third round of the shootout and Selanne beat Marty Turco in the fourth round. Hiller, who made 42 saves, then stopped Loui Eriksson for the victory.
It was the 10th win the last 12 for the Ducks, who recovered from an up-and-down season to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The clincher came against the team that dethroned them in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
"We’ve come together to push us into the playoffs and give us an opportunity to see what we can do there," Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer. "It’s always nice to have that opportunity. We’ve had more consistency and playing the way we need to."
The Ducks snapped a 2-2 tie with 6:04 left in regulation when Andrew Ebbett scored just 13 seconds after Fabian Brunnstrom had tied the score by banging Ott's rebound past Hiller.
Anaheim took the early lead when Todd Marchant scored 9:50 into the game. The Stars tied it 4:10 into the second on Ott's power-play goal.
Niedermayer put Anaheim ahead 2-1 at 7:03 of the third period, one-timing Corey Perry's pass behind Turco.
The Ducks also got a boost with the return of defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who had been out since Nov. 14 following surgery for a torn knee ligament. Beauchemin played 15:23 on the third defensive pairing with Sheldon Brookbank.
"Overall, I think I felt all right," Beauchemin said. "I got the puck early on a couple of breakouts, offensive zone faceoffs and all that stuff. I didn’t run out of breath. Conditioning-wise, I felt actually almost better than ever. The knee had no problems. I hit a couple of guys. I didn’t feel a thing tonight. That is good news."
There was no good news for the Stars, who got within two victories of the Stanley Cup Final last spring but were devastated by injuries this season. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
"Obviously we're disappointed, knowing for the last three or four games of the season, we knew our fate," forward Mike Modano said. "We just felt like we were climbing from behind all season long. We were never able to get in a groove, get any momentum or any consistency in our game."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report