ANAHEIM, Calif. – Teemu Selanne can finally exhale. His 600th goal is in the books, with four home games to spare in what likely will be his final NHL season.
Selanne became the 18th player in NHL history to reach the milestone, scoring 34 seconds into the second period during a power play in the Anaheim Ducks’ 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.
“I was a little nervous that if it didn’t happen tonight, it might not happen here at all,” Selanne said. “It’s great, but it’s way more special happening at home. So I’m very happy about that. It was a big relief for me, for sure.”
Selanne is the fourth player to reach the milestone in the last four seasons, along with Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Joe Sakic. All but one member of the 600-goal club have joined that exclusive fraternity since Nov. 23, 1988, when Wayne Gretzky got the ball rolling just four days before the 23rd anniversary of Gordie Howe’s 600th.
“There are only 17 other guys that have done it before, and it’s a very unique, special group,” Selanne said. “You need a lot of luck, hard work and great players to play with. I have had all those things.”
The 39-year-old right wing from Finland, playing his 16th NHL season, scored on his fifth shot of the game while John-Michael Liles was off for hooking Matt Beleskey.
“He’s a great guy, and we definitely were pulling for him,” teammate Scott Niedermayer said. “There was an underlying feeling when you’re on the ice with him. You want to at least give him the opportunity. He knows how to score goals.”
Craig Anderson stopped Lubomir Visnovsky’s one-timer from just inside the blue-line, then thwarted Corey Perry’s rebound attempt. But the Avalanche defence couldn’t clear the puck, and Selanne slammed his 21st goal of the season into a wide-open net before Anderson could scramble back to the crease.
“I guess that was the easiest I’ve had in a while,” Selanne said. “I was just hoping that the puck was going to bounce to me, and it did. I’ve had a lot of chances the last three games, but nothing went in. Then you get one of those.
“It’s amazing the way my teammates have been feeding me the puck. I think they wanted this more than I did. Obviously, it’s a great feeling, and I don’t have to think about it anymore.”
Anderson became the 133rd goalie that Selanne has scored against in the regular season. Selanne’s first NHL goal came against San Jose’s Jeff Hackett on Oct. 8, 1992.
“I remember that like it was yesterday – Cow Palace against the Sharks,” Selanne said. “There have been a lot of goals between 1 and 600. Time is flying. It’s unbelievable how fast it goes. If somebody would have told me at that time that that I was going to score 600 goals in this league, I would call the doctor.”
Selanne is the Ducks’ leader with 373 goals, most of them with Paul Kariya as his linemate. The latest milestone came just three days after Kariya got his 400th goal.
“I texted him after that game and told him: ‘Maybe I’ll get my 600th soon, too,”‘ Selanne said. “Numbers-wise, I had my best years here with Paul and we helped each other so much. Not very often can you find the same chemistry that we had. It was amazing, and they were great memories.”
Jonas Hiller finished with 26 saves after Jason Blake and Beleskey helped stake him to a 4-0 lead with first-period goals. Blake’s came on a power play, as did Ryan Getzlaf’s 19th goal in the third period. Rookie Troy Bodie got his first career short-handed goal at 12:45 of the second period, chasing Anderson to the bench.
Darcy Tucker and former Ducks defenceman Ruslan Salei scored third-period goals for the Avalanche. Salei and Selanne were teammate in Anaheim for five-plus seasons.
“Unfortunately it was against us – but, yes, I’m happy for him,” Salei said. “It’s a huge milestone. I want to congratulate him – and I did on the ice.”
NOTES: Selanne also was on the winning side when he scored his 100th, 200th, 300th and 400th NHL goals. But the Ducks lost 3-2 at Colorado in a shootout when he got his 500th goal on Nov. 22, 2006. … Selanne’s 648 career assists, including the one he had on Getzlaf’s goal, are the second fewest among players who have scored 600 goals. Bobby Hull had only 560 – but son Brett finished with just two more than Selanne has now. … Selanne had 16 goals during his one season with the Avalanche (2003-04). … Selanne, Luc Robitaille and Mario Lemieux are the only players ever to score 600 goals after winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. … Paul Stastny failed to get a point for the first time in 10 games since returning from the Olympics. … The Ducks signed C Nick Bonino to a two-year entry-level contract. Bonino just completed his junior season at Boston University after helping BU win the NCAA championship last year.