ANAHEIM, Calif. – Teemu Selanne was skating slightly backward when he decided he could still beat Jimmy Howard. He received a pass and instantly flung a pinpoint wrist shot at the net, finding a small opening behind the Detroit goalie.
The 42-year-old Finnish Flash’s talents are pretty much timeless, and his timely goal got the Anaheim Ducks off to a solid playoff start.
Selanne scored the tiebreaking power-play goal early in the third period, Jonas Hiller made 21 saves, and the Ducks rolled to a 3-1 victory over the Red Wings on Tuesday night.
Nick Bonino also scored a power-play goal, and Francois Beauchemin added an empty-netter as the second-seeded Ducks hung on in the final minutes of the opener in just their second playoff series in four years.
“That’s what we were expecting,” said Selanne, in his 20th NHL season. “We know how good they are, and we needed a good, solid effort. We know it’s not going to be easy.”
Selanne just makes it look that way sometimes.
He came up with yet another huge goal for the Pacific Division champions, putting a perfectly placed one-timer over Howard’s shoulder while gliding away from the net. The remarkable feat of skill was his 42nd career playoff goal—and a reminder of Anaheim’s wealth of talent despite an unimpressive finish to a fine season.
“It just came into my mind,” Selanne said with a shrug. “Usually you try to hold the puck, but it came into my mind that if I got the puck, I’m going to try to shoot.”
Game 2 is Thursday at Honda Center.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry led a strong offensive effort by the Pacific Division champions, who finished the regular season with the best winning percentage in franchise history. Anaheim also excelled on the power play, little surprise for the NHL’s fourth-ranked unit in the regular season.
Coach Bruce Boudreau also looked smart for choosing Hiller over first-year co-starter Viktor Fasth for the opener. Both goalies won 15 games in the regular season, but Boudreau went with his Swiss veteran, who came up with a handful of spectacular saves.
“We wanted to start strong at home, and it’s important to get that first one and have some confidence,” Hiller said. “We played very solid in our end, and that makes it easier for a goalie. Even the goal they scored was a lucky bounce for them.”
Howard stopped 24 shots and Daniel Cleary scored on a power play for the Red Wings in their 22nd consecutive post-season appearance. While Detroit played the Ducks evenly at full strength, Anaheim’s special-teams skill decided it.
“I didn’t think we were great,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “I didn’t think we moved the puck very good. Give them credit. They’re part of that equation. … I thought their team was better than our team today. I thought they controlled the game and had more cycles.”
Anaheim missed two of the previous three postseasons, and Honda Center was packed well before the opening faceoff with hungry fans waving orange glow sticks and whipping towels above their heads. The Ducks have won just one post-season round since winning their only Stanley Cup in 2007, and Anaheim is eager for another lengthy run after the current team finally actualized its considerable talent.
The Ducks have been transformed ever since Boudreau took over in the final weeks of 2011, returning to respectability last season before roaring to a 22-3-4 start to this lockout-shortened campaign. Anaheim has been coasting steadily toward the playoffs for several weeks, finishing with the NHL’s third-best record and the second division title in franchise history.
Detroit had to scramble down the stretch just to extend its record post-season streak, only clinching a spot in the final game after four straight victories. The Red Wings also had good recent results in Anaheim, where they won consecutive games in late March to snap the Ducks’ 13-game home winning streak.
“There was not enough thrown at Hiller, for sure,” Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. “There were a lot of times that we turned the puck over in the wrong area. They’re a really good team over there, so we have to do a good job of protecting the puck in our own zone.”
The Ducks went ahead midway through the first period when Bonino scored 3 seconds into a power play, tipping Cam Fowler’s point shot past Howard for his first career playoff goal.
Detroit evened it later in the period with a power-play goal just 4 seconds after a two-man advantage expired, with Cleary getting credit for his 21st career playoff goal after it apparently deflected off him.
Selanne put the Ducks back ahead after a scoreless second period. Detroit pressed in the final minutes, but Beauchemin wrapped it up with an exceptional empty-net goal, shooting the puck from just outside Anaheim’s goal crease.
NOTES: Detroit’s playoff streak is the longest active run in North American pro sports. … The franchises are meeting in the playoffs for the sixth time in 16 years. … After the Ducks knocked off top-seeded San Jose in 2009, Detroit beat eighth-seeded Anaheim in the second round on the way to the Stanley Cup finals. … Detroit veterans Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson were healthy scratches. Both veterans were injured for most of the regular season.