ANAHEIM, Calif. – After Teemu Selanne basked in pre-game cheers from a ceremony honouring his 600th goal, he helped an Anaheim teammate from the next generation make some history of his own.
And with an eight-shot performance, the Finnish Flash even showed why he still has a future in hockey if he decides to put off retirement for another year. Nick Bonino scored his first NHL goal with an assist from Selanne, and Curtis McElhinney made 30 saves in the Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday night.
The Ducks honoured Selanne before the game as the 18th player to score 600 NHL goals, hitting the milestone last week in a home game against Colorado. Jari Kurri, Selanne’s boyhood idol and former Ducks teammate, flew in from Finland to join the celebration with Selanne’s family and Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli.
“I never expected I could play this long and achieve this kind of milestone,” Selanne told the crowd. “I’m so glad it happened here in front of my family and these fans.”
Selanne is leaning toward retirement after the season, but the Honda Center crowd showered him with chants of “One more year! One more year!” He then underlined why he could stick around if he chooses, constantly firing the puck at Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen as the Ducks’ most active forward.
In the second period, Bonino batted home a rebound of Selanne’s shot from the slot during a power play for his first goal in just his second NHL game.
“I was glad he was able to do it at home, like when I got my (600th),” Selanne said. “That’s a special thing for any player. The first NHL goal is always so memorable.”
Selanne even came close to scoring his 601st goal – which would match Kurri’s career total – in the final seconds, but just missed getting the puck on the empty net.
“It’s been like this for a long time – chance after chance,” Selanne said. “I really wanted to score, more so for Jari. He wanted to come here and see it happen. I was honoured that he came. I’m so happy. It’s a long way, but we’re good buddies.”
Corey Perry and Kyle Chipchura scored 49 seconds apart in the second period as the Ducks won for the sixth time in eight games to move even with Dallas and Minnesota in 11th place in the Western Conference standings. All three clubs trail Colorado by nine points for the final playoff spot.
A late-season game between two likely non-playoff teams was special both for the 39-year-old Selanne and the 21-year-old Bonino, who won an NCAA title at Boston University last year shortly after Anaheim acquired his rights from San Jose. After another season with the Terriers, he signed with the Ducks on March 21 and joined the club for last Friday’s win at Edmonton.
“It’s been incredible to play with Teemu and all of our veterans,” said Bonino, who hit a crossbar in the first period. “This wasn’t what I thought would happen. I knew there was a chance I’d be up with (the Ducks), but it’s been great to come here with these guys, to see how this season ends and then come to training camp ready to go.”
Loui Eriksson scored his 28th goal and Lehtonen stopped 43 shots for the Stars, who lost two of three in California to end a four-game road trip. High-scoring centre Mike Ribeiro also was scratched for missing a team meeting, coach Marc Crawford said.
“We knew we were going to be short-handed, but we felt it was the important and right thing to do long-term,” Crawford said. “You have to have people that trust and do the things that they need to do – in any business. Sometimes you don’t get the benefit right away. Usually your guys dig in, and they did.”
McElhinney held the Stars scoreless until late in the second period of his second straight start in place of Jonas Hiller, who was held out for precautionary reasons after having back spasms during warmups. McElhinney had barely played in his first few weeks since arriving in a trade with Calgary early this month.
Centre Ryan Getzlaf also missed his second straight game with a sore left ankle, but Perry had a goal and an assist for his fourth multi-point effort in seven games. Perry got his 27th goal a few minutes after Bonino’s score, and Chipchura added his fifth when Dallas’ defence allowed him to hack at Lubomir Visnovsky’s rebound with little opposition.
Eriksson finally got Dallas on the board on a slick behind-the-net pass from Brad Richards 1:18 later, but Anaheim dominated puck possession for most of the night, getting its 40th shot early in the third period.
“It’s tough to get down that early in the game and have to try to claw back,” Richards said. “The game was lost early because of the hole we put ourselves in. We had a better third period and had some offensive zone time, but they were probably playing the scoreboard also.”
Notes: Kurri wore his Mighty Ducks jersey from the 1996-97 season while dropping the ceremonial first puck between Selanne and Dallas’ Jere Lehtinen. … Eriksson has five goals and five assists against Anaheim this season. … McElhinney’s victory was the seventh of his brief NHL career.