ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Teemu Selanne and Jean-Sebastien Giguere skated to center ice under a spotlight on the darkened rink, their clasped hands held aloft.
Before Selanne’s Ducks and Giguere’s Colorado Avalanche head to the playoffs in a few days, these two beloved Ducks savored one last chance to feel Anaheim’s mighty love for them.
Nick Bonino scored 1:33 into overtime, and the Ducks finished the best regular season in franchise history with a 3-2 victory over Colorado on Sunday night.
But with their playoff position secure, the Ducks used the game to honor Selanne, who plans to retire after the season.
Wearing the captain’s “C,” the 43-year-old Finnish Flash got standing ovations on every shift in the third period in Anaheim, his home for 15 of his 21 NHL seasons.
“It was more emotion than I ever imagined,” said Selanne, the 15th-leading scorer in NHL history with 1,457 points. “Over all the years, these fans have treated me so great. I never expected that, though. It was overwhelming.”
The largest Ducks crowd of the season serenaded Selanne with applause all night, peaking in wild cheers whenever he touched the puck in Colorado’s end – even if he narrowly missed several chances to add to his 684 career goals, 11th in NHL history.
Selanne took a few laps around the rink after he was awarded all three postgame stars, waving at fans and pounding his heart. When he shook hands with every player on both teams, he seized the chance to share the spotlight with Giguere, who also is leaning toward retirement.
“For him to do that, it’s something that’s very special for me, and something I’ll never forget,” said Giguere, who had two arena suites filled with family and friends.
“He’s such a class act. I got the game puck for him. He deserves such an ovation for everything he’s done for Orange County and the Ducks.”
During a first-period timeout, the crowd also stood to cheer Giguere, who stopped 33 shots. “Jiggy” will always be adored in Anaheim after backstopping the once-Mighty Ducks to two Stanley Cup finals, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in defeat in 2003 and hoisting the Cup in 2007.
“It was the best time in my career,” Giguere said of the championship season. “There’s no doubt about it, and I’m sure it was Teemu’s, too. I can’t think of a better guy to have won the Cup with.”
Selanne hit the outside of Giguere’s post with a shot in the second, and the Flash had several fruitless chances on the power play. He got another golden opportunity with 3 1/2 minutes left in regulation, but Giguere robbed him.
Selanne and Giguere were the stars of a no-stakes meeting of the Western Conference’s two division champions. Anaheim clinched the West’s top spot Saturday, while Colorado won the Central earlier Sunday when St. Louis lost.
The Ducks will face Dallas in the first round starting Wednesday, while the Avalanche open against Minnesota on Thursday.
“I was so happy for him to play,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said of Giguere. “He wanted to play that game for a while, and we were planning to give it to him.
“But obviously the plans changed for a while because we had a chance to finish first in our division. And as soon as Detroit beat St. Louis today, the first thing I did was call Jiggy and said `You’re in. Enjoy the night.'”
Patrick Maroon and Saku Koivu scored 3:13 apart to tie it early in the third period for the Ducks, who won seven of nine to close the season. John Gibson made 29 saves to remain unbeaten in his third career start.
The Ducks won it when Devante Smith-Pelly controlled the puck in the slot and passed to Bonino, who scored his 22nd goal. Anaheim set club records for victories (54), points (116), goals (263) and comeback victories (26) with this big finish.
“That’s going to be the more forgotten-about overtime goal in the history of the Ducks,” Bonino said with a laugh. “It was T’s night, and we’re all happy for him.”
Brad Malone and Stefan Elliott scored for the Avalanche, who lost for just the third time in 11 games. The West’s most surprising team lost when leading after two periods for just the third time in 38 games this season, but still finished with a club record-tying 52 wins – a record 26 on the road.
NOTES: The Ducks rested captain Ryan Getzlaf, who still finished second in the NHL scoring race with 87 points, and Corey Perry, who came in second in the Richard Trophy race with 43 goals. .. These teams opened the season in Denver. The Avalanche’s 6-1 victory included a shouting match between coaches Bruce Boudreau and Roy. … Longtime Ducks star Paul Kariya made a rare return to Honda Center for the tribute game, his good friend and longtime teammate. Selanne spent the 2003-04 season with Colorado, teaming with Kariya in a fruitless attempt to win a quick Stanley Cup. Selanne returned to Anaheim after the NHL lockout.