LOS ANGELES – Teemu Selanne is going to the playoffs. Scott Thornton could be headed for retirement.
The 37-year-old stars left the ice with opposite emotions on Saturday after Selanne scored two goals, including the game winner to lift the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
The playoff-bound Ducks have one game left in the regular season. The Kings, who began the day tied with Tampa Bay for the fewest points in the league, lost their finale and are headed to the NHL draft lottery.
Thornton, a 17-year NHL veteran who has played in Los Angeles the last two seasons, quietly confirmed what his teammates already knew, that after 941 career games, he will probably retire.
“I’ve tried to prepare for it. I still love to play, but I think it’s time,” Thornton said as he fought back tears.
His Kings teammates had worn special T-shirts featuring Thornton’s number 27 during the game.
“I just want to enjoy the time with my teammates,” he added. “I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.”
Some two months after he returned from his own brief period contemplating retirement Selanne, who will turn 38 in July, showed he is moving into playoff form. His two goal effort gives him 12 goals in 25 games since getting back in lineup February 5.
“My goal has been getting better every day and to build the momentum into the playoffs,” Selanne said. “I think right now we have to finish strong.”
Selanne fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Kings goalie Dan Cloutier to break a 3-3 tie and lift the Ducks to their sixth win in eight games against their Southern California rivals this season.
Joe DiPenta and Ryan Getzlaf also scored and Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 28 shots for the Ducks, who close out the regular season hosting Phoenix on Sunday before opening the playoffs at home against Dallas in a series that will likely begin on Thursday.
Dustin Brown, Brian Willsie and Patrick O’Sullivan scored for the Kings, who finished with 71 points and could enter Monday’s NHL draft lottery with the highest percentage chance of securing the top pick in the draft.
“You don’t want to end the season with a loss, but I think it was a good battle today and a good game to watch,” said Kings 20-year-old centre Anze Kopitar who led the team in scoring with 77 points (32 goals, 45 assists) “We are a big family here, not happy yet, but I’m sure in the future when we make the playoffs we will be.”
After Brown beat Giguere with a wrist shot from the left circle for his team leading 33rd goal to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead 12:24 into the game, the teams combined for five goals during a 5:06 span at the end of the first period and into the second.
Just 8 seconds after DiPenta whisked in a shot from the point for his first goal of the season, Selanne swept through the Kings’ defence and around Cloutier for a backhand goal to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the first period. The eight-second span between goals matched the Anaheim franchise record.
Selanne and Chris Kuntiz had teamed up for a pair of goals eight seconds apart at Phoenix on Nov. 30, 2005.
“That was probably pretty symbolic of the way we played this year,” Kings coach Marc Crawford said. ” We made a couple of turnovers that ended up costing us. If you look at the game as a whole it was fairly even. We probably had the better chances but we gave up the big chance.”
Willsie drew the Kings even, swiping in a rebound of a Tom Preissing shot 2:21 into the second.
Getzlaf responded with a breakaway goal just 66 seconds later and O’Sullivan tied the game with his 22nd goal just 1 minute after Getzlaf scored.
Notes: DiPenta was making just his third appearance in the lineup since Dec. 14 and his first appearance since Feb. 2. … Anaheim captain Chris Pronger can return to play Sunday after completing an eight-game suspension for stomping Vancouver forward Ryan Kessler in a game on March 12. … Kings players voted Brown the team’s “Most Inspirational Player” and Jeff Giuliano as their “Unsung Hero.” … The sellout crowd provided a scattering of applause during a moment of recognition to referee Mick McGeough, who has announced he will be retiring after the season.