They celebrated into the wee hours with their Anaheim Ducks teammates after a 6-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators ended the NHL’s championship series in five games Wednesday night. “What an amazing atmosphere,” McDonald said of the raucous reaction from the capacity crowd in the Honda Center. “You’d think you were in Canada out there.
“The fans were unbelievable. We’ve really had a good following all through the playoffs.”
McDonald, from Strathroy, Ont., was one of 16 Canadians in the Ducks lineup. They’ll lug the Stanley Cup to their home cities when they get their turns this summer.
Selanne, the 36-year-old Finn completing a 15th big-league season, finally got the trophy he’d always wanted.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I played so many games for this dream to come true.
“I can’t imagine a better feeling than to win this in our home building. My teammates are like brothers to me so this is very special.”
The Stanley Cup now rests among the palm trees and surfboards of Southern California.
For the veterans, guys like captain Scott Niedermayer, the Cranbrook, B.C., product who earned his fourth championship ring and first playoff MVP award, his younger brother Rob, Chris Pronger of Dryden, Ont., and Sean O’Donnell from the Ottawa region, it was the culmination of year-in, year-out struggles on ice.
“We have a lot of guys in the room who were pretty hungry,” said the Ducks captain. “When you play like Teemu has for 15 years, or when you play 10, 12 or 14 years and you haven’t had a chance to do this, that puts something in your stomach, I think, that you can count on at this time of year, and I think our guys showed that.”
They sure showed they were a lot better than the Senators, who fell short in their bid to become the first Canadian team since Montreal in 1993 to win the Stanley Cup.
“Anaheim is a hell of a team,” said losing coach Bryan Murray. “We thought we could have competed and the series would have been longer at any rate.
“Positionally, they played better than we did – defence in particular.”
The Ducks were also willing to play through injuries. After the game, Pronger said he separated a shoulder after being hit, but he stayed in the game.
Anaheim held Ottawa to 13 shots on Jean-Sebastien Giguere, while they got 18 on Ray Emery, who had one of his poorest outings of the spring for the Senators.
Some of his players – and not just Emery – didn’t play up to expectations, said Murray.
“That’s most disappointing,” he said.
Scott Niedermayer accepted the Stanley Cup, handed it off to his brother, who handed it off to Pronger and then it went to Selanne and the others.
“This is a special moment,” said Pronger. “It’s always worth it when you win it.”
Despite the one-sided outcome, they all commended the Senators.
“They battled hard,” said McDonald. “It didn’t feel like we dominated the series.”
Travis Moen of Stewart Valley, Sask., got credit for two goals and McDonald, Rob Niedermayer, Francois Beauchemin of Sorel, Que., and Corey Perry of Peterborough, Ont., supplied one each in the clincher.
Coach Randy Carlyle had three strong forward lines that could all score, a consistently good goaltender in Giguere and Norris Trophy finalists Niedermayer and Pronger to man the blue-lines.
“To allow only 13 shots in a critical game like that is a tribute to the guys,” said Carlyle.
The Ducks went all the way because they clearly had the best team. No luck was involved. GM Brian Burke did a fabulous job shaping the roster.
“They had more depth than us in this series,” said Ottawa captain Alfredsson.
The Swede scored both of his team’s goals. He was booed every time he touched the puck because his slapshot at Scott Niedermayer at the end of the second period Monday had made him new enemies.
The Senators were impressive through three rounds but could not cope with the rough-and-tumble Ducks in the final. The critics said all along that the West was the best. They were right.
Few Californians outside the Los Angeles region paid much attention to what was a brief but entertaining series but the Ducks had strong local support and finished their campaign with a 34th consecutive sellout.
The Ducks became the first West Coast team to earn the oldest trophy in North American pro sports since the Victoria Cougars won it in Vancouver in 1925.
Murray, desperate for some offence, split up Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley for the first time in the playoffs but nothing he tried paid dividends.
“It’s probably the worst feeling you could have as a hockey player,” said Sens forward Mike Comrie. “They played us tough.”
Three consecutive Ottawa penalties in the first 5:39 helped the Ducks gain the early momentum and McDonald opened the scoring with his team-high 10th goal on a power play at 3:41. Emery looked weak on this one.
Anaheim was assessed the next three penalties but still grabbed a 2-0 lead. Perry jumped out of the penalty box to set up Rob Niedermayer at 17:41. Emery looked shaky on this one, too.
Alfredsson beat a partially screened and kneeling Giguere with a high shot from the middle of Anaheim’s zone 11:27 into the second period, and it gave the Senators some jump.
Then came the goal that crushed Ottawa. Emery went behind his net and Chris Phillips joined him as the puck careened around the back boards. Phillips got it. Pressured by Rob Niedermayer, he took a stride and moved to his left. The puck got caught up in Emery’s skate blades as he moved back into his crease, and it slid into the net. Moen got credit for the goal at 15:44 as the last Duck to have touched the puck. The goal was reminiscent of the 1986 gaffe by Edmonton’s Steve Smith that allowed Calgary to eliminate the Oilers in their division final.
“Now I know how Steve Smith felt,” said a distraught Phillips.
Alfredsson wasn’t giving up. Heatley and Spezza had disappeared, but the fiery Swede was giving it his all. His short-handed goal at 17:37 made it 3-2. It was his league-best 14th of the post-season.
Beauchemin’s long shot off Anton Volchenkov’s leg and past Emery on the same penalty at 18:28 restored a two-goal Anaheim lead, and Moen tipped a long Scott Niedermayer shot at 4:01 of the third to make it 5-2.
“It wasn’t until the third that I thought that maybe we had the win and the Stanley Cup,” said McDonald. “They competed so hard.”
It was all over and Perry put an exclamation mark on it with his slapshot from the slot at 17:00.
Selanne savoured the taste of the champagne.
“What an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “I’ve been waiting a long time.
“There were some times when I never thought this would happen.”
Added McDonald: “It’s a great feeling. It’s kind of surreal right now. It hasn’t sunk in.”
Notes: Scott and Rob Niedermayer became the first brothers to win the Stanley Cup together since Brent and Duane Sutter in 1983 with the New York Islanders . . . Ottawa was 0-for-3 and Anaheim 2-for-6 on power plays . . . Vermette got a penalty shot when he was hooked by Todd Marchant in the third and he failed to get off a shot when he lost control of the puck while approaching Giguere . . . Anaheim is the first team since the 1975 Philadelphia Flyers to lead the league in regular-season penalty minutes and emerge with the Stanley Cup . . . The home team got to hoist the trophy for the sixth consecutive time. It hasn’t been won on the road since 2000, when New Jersey won it in Dallas . . . The winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy was determined by ballots cast by 15 selected members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association . . . All that was missing as the Ducks passed the Stanley Cup around was a Beach Boys tune. “Fun, Fun, Fun” perhaps.