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Late-game hero Selanne refuses to act his age

by John Kreiser
At age 40, Teemu Selanne appears to be saving his best for last.

With the Anaheim Ducks desperate for points, Selanne has had a big hand in four victories since Feb. 11 by scoring the tying goal in the final three minutes of regulation. He's the first player in NHL history to get that many tying goals that late in games in one season, let alone in six weeks.

Selanne has been performing his heroics when they're needed most -- two of the four goals came against Calgary and the other two against Dallas, two teams the Ducks are battling for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. Two of the four came in a four-day span -- he tied Sunday's game against Calgary by scoring a power-play goal with 2:01 left in regulation in a game the Ducks won 5-4, then banged in the tying goal with 6.4 seconds left at Dallas on Wednesday in a game the Ducks won 4-3 on Cam Fowler's overtime goal.

Selanne scored two more goals Thursday, but the Ducks' latest comeback came up one short when they rallied from a 5-1 third-period deficit against Nashville, but lost 5-4.

Selanne has hinted that this could be his last season. If it is, it's not because his skills are deteriorating. With 70 points in 65 games, he has an excellent chance of becoming only the third player to average a point a game after turning 40 -- and the first since 1976, when Johnny Bucyk had 83 points in 77 games for the Boston Bruins at age 40. Gordie Howe had the highest-scoring season of his legendary career -- 103 points -- as a 40-year-old in 1968-69.

Selanne is one of 13 players this season who have scored 50 or more points and averaged more than a point a game. Seven of the 13 are 25 and under; after Selanne, the next-oldest is Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis -- a youngster at age 35.

Shutouts in spurts -- Not many New York Rangers fans know who Lorne Chabot is -- or at least they didn't until this week, when Henrik Lundqvist blanked Florida 1-0 on Tuesday for his 10th shutout of the season. It was the second time in Lundqvist's six NHL seasons that he's reached double figures in shutouts -- making him the first Rangers goaltender to do so since Chabot in 1926-27 and 1927-28, the first two seasons in franchise history.

Lundqvist enters the weekend with 34 career shutouts -- 20 of them in the two seasons (2007-08 and 2010-11) in which he's had at least 10. His high in his other four NHL seasons was five, in 2006-07.

Almost … again -- There still hasn't been a game this season in which a team has rallied from four goals down to win. Detroit became the second team to get a point after trailing by four goals when it came back from a 4-0 deficit against Pittsburgh on Monday, only to lose 5-4 in a shootout. The Wings did get further than Calgary did Jan. 17 -- the Flames got a point after trailing Montreal 4-0, only to lose in overtime.

The last team to win a game after trailing by four goals was the Minnesota Wild, who trailed Chicago 5-1 entering the third period Jan. 9, 2010, but scored four times in the final 20 minutes and won the game in a shootout.

Good omen? Maybe not -- Newcomer James Neal had the only shootout goal for Pittsburgh on Monday, enabling the Penguins to beat Detroit after blowing their 4-0 lead. The Penguins hope it's a sign of good things to come for the young winger they acquired from Dallas last month.

Neal broke into the NHL with Dallas in 2008-09 as a shootout whiz, scoring on five of his seven attempts as a rookie. After that, however, he lost his touch. Neal went 0-for-10 last season and ended a streak of 12 consecutive misses when he beat Detroit goaltender Joey MacDonald on Monday, a little more than a month after coming to Pittsburgh in a deal with the Stars.

Neal ended his shootout drought two short of the record since the tiebreaker was adopted in 2005. The longest drought -- 14 consecutive misses -- is held by the Islanders' Trent Hunter and Edmonton's Sam Gagner, who has missed his past 14 tries and is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a hand injury.

Neal was stopped in Thursday's shootout against Philadelphia, dropping him to 6-for-21 (28.6 percent) for his career.

Bargain bonanza -- Maybe New York Islanders GM Garth Snow should buy some lottery tickets. He certainly got lucky this season in the NHL's version of a game of chance -- the waiver wire.

Snow snatched rookie Michael Grabner when Florida put him on waivers just before the regular season started. All Grabner has done is combine with Frans Nielsen to form one of the NHL's best penalty-killing twosomes, win the Fastest Skater competition during All-Star Weekend -- and score 31 goals, more than any player acquired on waivers during the past 15 years.

In fact, Grabner is the only player to reach the 20-goal mark in that time. Chris Kunitz, picked up by Anaheim from Atlanta in 2005-06, had the previous high, 19.

More amazing is that Grabner has put up his numbers without a lot of ice time or power-play production. Grabner's average ice time of 14:54 is by far the lowest among any of the 39 players who have scored 25 or more goals; the closest is Buffalo's Drew Stafford at 16:19. Grabner also has just 1 power-play goal; all other 25-goal scorers have at least three.

The Isles also found a gem in the NHL's bargain bin in the summer of 2009 when they signed minor-league free agent Matt Moulson, now a two-time 30-goal scorer. Moulson and Grabner have given the Isles their first pair of 30-goal scorers since 2001-02, when Alexei Yashin and Mark Parrish both reached 30.
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