ANAHEIM, Calif. – Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer skated slightly ahead of the other Anaheim Ducks in a victory lap around their home rink, pointing their sticks at the roaring, sign-waving fans who want them back in the fall.
With no playoffs coming up, Selanne and Niedermayer have plenty of time to decide whether they’ll return to the flock after the underachieving Ducks’ celebratory season finale against the NHL’s last-place team. Selanne scored his 606th goal in possibly his final NHL game, and Anaheim beat the Edmonton Oilers 7-2 Sunday night in the league’s regular-season finale.
Ryan Carter scored twice for the Ducks, who didn’t know whether they were bidding farewell to franchise scoring leader Selanne or captain Niedermayer. Both mainstays of Anaheim’s 2007 Stanley Cup championship team haven’t decided whether they’ll retire or return to the 11th-place Ducks, who missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“I’ve said it before, but this team is way, way too good to miss the playoffs,” Selanne said. “The good thing is there’s still a bright future for this team, good chemistry, so it’s all good signs. … I have some extra months to recover from this season and to decide, so I’m going to use it.”
His fans already have decided: The Honda Center was ringed with dozens of signs and banners in English and Finnish, praising Selanne and demanding another year from him and Niedermayer, the 36-year-old defenceman. During the victory lap, the crowd repeatedly chanted “One more year!” at its veteran stars.
“I’m pretty sure there will be a decision fairly soon,” said Niedermayer, who has considered retirement in each of the past three summers. “It’s important for everybody. Nobody enjoys going through this. We all felt we had a better team than we showed this year.”
Ryan Whitney scored against his former teammates for the Oilers, who finished last in the NHL with 62 points, 12 fewer than 29th-place Toronto. Edmonton had won three straight before falling behind early against the Ducks, whose 25 home victories were more than any of the five teams above them in the West standings.
“Usually, I’m quite a positive person, but I don’t feel positive right now,” said Pat Quinn, the Oilers’ irascible coach. “Because I didn’t like how we played tonight, and I’m still reacting to that personally. But yes, there’s reason to believe that we have a chance to continue to grow this team. Is it a bigger job than maybe some expected? Probably.”
Mike Comrie scored his third goal in two games for Edmonton, and Jeff Deslauriers stopped 38 shots.
“It’s a pretty disappointing game to end the year with,” said Whitney, traded to Edmonton for Lubomir Visnovsky right after returning from the Vancouver Olympics. “I mean, some guys kind of checked out a little earlier in the game, that’s what Pat said after the second period. It’s kind of typical of how this year has gone for this team. Not everybody brought their ‘A’ game, but the season’s over, and it’s on to next year and better times ahead.”
After Anaheim took a 3-1 lead in the first period, Selanne scored on a power play just 16 seconds into the second, taking a pass from Saku Koivu and beating Deslauriers on the short side.
Anaheim fans gave Selanne a standing ovation, just in case it was their last chance to cheer the 17th-leading scorer in NHL history. Selanne had 27 goals and 21 assists in 54 games this season, ranking eighth in the NHL in goals per game.
After the off-season departures of defencemen Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin, Niedermayer had 10 goals and 38 assists while playing heavy ice time.
“I really hope they’ll both be back,” said Koivu, who also hopes to return after signing a one-year deal with Anaheim. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m sure (Selanne) is going to stay away for a while and think about it, and hopefully we can work it out.”
Jonas Hiller made 18 saves for Anaheim before leaving late in the second period with another flare-up of back spasms, which kept him out for seven of the past eight games.
Carter, who had just two goals in his first 37 games, and Steve Eminger scored 32 seconds apart early in the first period, and Matt Beleskey added his third goal in two games. Carter, Ducks enforcer George Parros and Kyle Chipchura scored for Anaheim in the third.
NOTES: C Ryan Getzlaf missed the Ducks’ final nine games with ankle problems that began shortly before the Olympics. Getzlaf still played for Canada, but had just two goals and six assists in 10 games for Anaheim after returning from Vancouver. … RW Corey Perry was the Ducks’ only player to appear in all 82 games, though Jason Blake also played in 82 after arriving Jan. 31 in a trade with Toronto for longtime Ducks G Jean-Sebastien Giguere. … Chipchura’s short-handed goal was the first of his career.