ANAHEIM, Calif. — Sunday’s slate of NHL games were essentially meaningless in regards to standings and playoff positioning but the Ducks and the Avalanche, two of the West’s best, didn’t see it that way.
Nick Bonino scored a goal in overtime for a 3-2 win in the Ducks’ final game of the regular season. Yes, it was in some ways meaningless, but it wasn’t because it gave Teemu Selanne the win that the Ducks so desperately wanted for their veteran teammate.
The Ducks honored 21-year veteran Teemu Selanne in the final regular season game of his career. In addition, Avs’ goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Ducks’ club leader in games played, minutes played, saves and most shutouts during his nine-year Anaheim tenure, started in the net for what was mostly likely the final time of his career.
The two players that helped bring a Stanley Cup to Anaheim were honored for the contributions in front of the largest Honda Center crowd of the season, far from meaningless.
There are still games to be played as the Ducks, the top team in the Western Conference, begin the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Wednesday night at the Honda Center against Dallas, and head coach Bruce Boudreau said this isn’t a team to back down in these last few "meaningless" games.
"We want to do the things right all of the time," Boudreau said. "We played nine games in a row against non-playoff teams and we were lukewarm, mediocre. And then the last three games, San Jose had 111 points and Colorado 111 points and L.A., 100 points, and we win all three and I thought we played pretty well in all three of them."
Giguere, who returned to a warm welcome from Orange County fans, stopped every one of the Ducks’ shots until early in the third period when Patrick Maroon cut the deficit to 2-1 on Mathieu Perreault’s deflection.
Classy Teemu Selanne says goodbye in typical fashion
Just a few minutes later, Saku Koivu took the puck on the crease, waited until Giguere dove to his right and backhanded it past the goaltender to tie the game at 2-2.
"Sometimes these games are hard when you’re not playing for much," Koivu said. "But when you’re down two goals against a team that hasn’t lost after two periods showed we’re deep talent-wise and can roll four lines.
"It was a great boost for our team."
Sami Vatanen and Devante Smith-Pelly, who came up big for the Ducks the previous night against the Kings, set up Bonino for the overtime goal.
"That’s probably going to be the most forgotten-about overtime goal in the history of the Ducks," Bonino joked. "I’m happy it went in, but it was T’s night and we’re all happy for him."
Selanne was denied by his good friend Giguere late in the third. But there were no hard feelings as he skated a lap around the ice with "Jiggy" after what is likely to be the goalie’s final game.
"I haven’t announced it officially but I think I’m definitely leaning towards that," Giguere said. "Whenever I come here it feels like coming home. It was nice to show my kids where they were born and they were very excited about that. People have always treated me very well here and I’m very grateful for that."
The Ducks finished the season with 116 standings points, just one shy of President’s Trophy winner Boston, and their best record in club history (54-20-8). They earned the top seed in the Western Conference for the first time ever and set records in goals, wins at home and on the road as well as points.
There’s at least a few more games left to make some more meaningful history.