With family and friends gathered to watch Travis Moen play hockey on TV, the tiny Saskatchewan farming community’s most famous son potted the goal that gave the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in the opening game of the NHL’s championship series.
“I know my mom had 15 or 20 people over watching so there were a lot of fans at the family home,” he said after stripping off his pads. “They’re just really excited to see me in the Stanley Cup playoffs so it’s pretty exciting.”
Brother Brant supplied the beer, he guessed, and his mom would have prepared the food.
There was only 2:51 remaining when the six-foot-two, 218-pound left-winger swung at a bouncing puck and sent it past goaltender Ray Emery and into a bottom corner of the Ottawa net, lifting most of the 17,274 cheering spectators out of their Honda Center seats and delighting everyone in Stewart Valley.
“I kind of got lucky,” said Moen. “The puck was bouncing but I got it on net and it snuck in.
“It was a great feeling.”
Moen skates on a checking line with Rob Niedermayer and Sammy Pahlsson. It shut down the most productive line in these playoffs – Jason Spezza between Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson.
“They’re three world-class players so it’s definitely a challenge to limit their space and play physical against them,” said Moen.
Spezza had his worst outing of the spring.
Moen scored his fifth goal of the post-season – and his second winner. He had scored only 11 goals in 82 regular-season games.
“You can never get too used to it,” he replied when asked if he’s getting used to being a scorer. “It’s definitely a good feeling.
“I had a chance earlier, kind of a half breakaway I wish I could have back, but all 20 of our guys battled hard. I was just lucky to put one in.”
Moen, 25, will be returning to the farm this summer to help cut and bale hay for winter feed.
The way the Ducks played on the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, the Senators may soon be cut and baled.
Andy McDonald of Strathroy, Ont., and Ryan Getzlaf, another Saskatchewan product – born in Regina – scored Anaheim’s other goals.
The Ducks outshot Ottawa 32-20 and would have won by a greater margin had not Emery played so well.
The Ducks laid on 30 hits compared to 21 by the Senators.
“We used our forecheck and were physical,” said McDonald. “I thought as the game went along we wore their defence down a bit and I thought that was a factor.”
The persistent checking paid off as Anaheim committed five giveaways and Ottawa 14.
Ottawa scored first, Mike Fisher of Peterborough, Ont., connecting 1:38 in, and led 2-1 after 40 minutes on a blast by Lloydminster, Sask.-born Wade Redden past Montreal-raised Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Both were on power plays.
The Ducks refused to fold. They’ve shown for weeks now that they’re a resilient bunch.
“We took some penalties we didn’t want to take and got ourselves into trouble there on a 5-on-3 (in the second period) but we found a way to get out of trouble and we came back,” said defenceman Sean O’Donnell, who grew up a kilometre from the Senators’ arena in Kanata. “That’s one thing this team does, and we’ve showed it all along.
“We do have a lot of heart.”
The Ducks proved as much by rallying on Getzlaf’s backhander from close range 5:44 into the third and winning it on Moen’s big goal.
“They’ve been great for us all through the playoffs,” Dustin Penner of Winkler, Man., said of the Ducks’ checking unit.
He hadn’t had the opportunity, yet, to tease Moen about being the next Wayne Gretzky.
“He doesn’t get on the scoresheet as often as he likes but he’s elevated his game in the playoffs,” said Penner. “You can’t say enough about the guy.”
The only complaint the Ducks had about their effort was that they took too many penalties. It has happened often this spring but they again managed to survive. Ottawa was 2-for-7 on power plays while Anaheim was 0-for-4.
It was an exciting opener, and the first of four series openers lost by the Senators this post-season. Coach Bryan Murray wasn’t the least bit happy about the playoff of Calgarian Heatley, Swede Alfredsson and Spezza of Mississauga, Ont.
“Their checking line played head to head with our guys and they ended up getting the winning goal,” said Murray. “So that’s the whole game in a nutshell.”
He knows what his players have to do to get back into the series when it resumes Wednesday.
“We gotta get the puck deep more often,” said Murray. “We have to create some offence off of that and get their defencemen to gived up the (blue-) line once in awhile.”
Redden turnovers led to two of the Anaheim goals.
“They made our defence extra hard and we didn’t retaliate the same way,” said Murray.
The crowd was loud and into it from the start, which shot down some of the suggestions in the media leading up to the series that few sports fans in southern California cared about the Stanley Cup final.
“I’m hoping people will take notice of what it was like when we came out onto the ice to start the game,” said O’Donnell. “We’ve been taking a little bit of heat, especially from the Canadian media, on what the crowds are like here.
“I think anybody who was in the building felt the chills. That’s the way it’s been since Christmas time and they’ve stepped it up in the playoffs. It was great tonight.”
It was the 32nd consecutive sellout for the Ducks, who believe they can be better on Wednesday.
“Now that we have the jitters out of the way and we know what they’re all about, we can really focus on our game and try to take it to them,” said Giguere.
CP Player of The Game: Travis Moen. Scored the winning goal late in the third period. Helped shut down Ottawa’s top line all night.
Notes: LW Oleg Saprykin was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row as Ottawa opted again to go with Patrick Eaves . . . LW Shawn Thornton got back into Anaheim’s lineup in place of Joe Motzko, who had taken Thornton’s place the previous two games . . . Players on both teams average six-foot-one in height and are nearly identical in average weight with Anaheim in at 204 and Ottawa at 206 pounds. The Senators are slightly younger at an average age of 27.4 years to the Ducks’ 28.5 . . . Anaheim’s Rob and Scott Niedermayer are the first brothers to appear in the final as teammates since Philadelphia’s Rich and Ron Sutter in 1985 . . . Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped the ceremonial first puck . . . Kelsey Scott, a longtime Ducks fan and season ticket holder, sang the Canadian anthem and Stephen Stills, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer/songwriter performed the U.S. anthem . . . The referees were Paul Devorski of Guelph, Ont., and Dan O’Halloran of Essex, Ont. Devorski glided over to shake Schwarzenegger’s hand before the governor’s photo op . . . Attention Ottawa fans: The Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 1 in 2004 and rebounded to win the title . . . The Ducks are attempting to become the first West Coast-based team to win the Stanley Cup since the Victoria Cougars of the Western Canada Hockey League defeated the Montreal Canadiens in 1925 . . . Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller was on hand to watch his brother, Drew, skate for the Ducks . . . Only two players in the series own Stanley Cup rings: Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer has three from his days with the New Jersey Devils, and backup Ottawa goalie Martin Gerber got one last spring with the Carolina Hurricanes . . . Celebrities in the crowd included Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. and Five For Fighting lead singer John Ondrasik.