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Emotional Teemu Selanne leads Anaheim Ducks into Stanley Cup final

Anaheim withstood a late surge by the Red Wings, so Selanne - who turns 37 in July - will play in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time. Shortly after Anaheim's 4-3 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, Selanne stood amid the hubbub in the locker room, his freshly minted T-shirt and hat proclaiming that the Ducks were playing for the Stanley Cup.

"This is a special moment for me," he said, smiling but a bit choked up. "I've been watching the finals on TV for so many times, it's great to finally be able to play in them.

"Wow, what a thrill."

The Ducks, who wrapped up their series against Detroit on Tuesday night, will begin the league championship round against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night in Anaheim. Game 2 is on the Ducks' ice Wednesday night before the series shifts to Ottawa for two games.

His career rejuvenated after he underwent knee surgery in 2004 and the Ducks brought him back to Anaheim in August 2005, Selanne was the team's leading scorer with 48 goals and 46 assists during the regular season. It was his most productive season since he had 107 points in 1998-99, during his first stint in Anaheim.

The Ducks won three straight over the Red Wings after losing two of the first three, and Selanne was a major contributor in those games. The "Finnish Flash" had four assists and two goals, including the winner in a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 5 that turned the series in the Ducks' favour.

After Anaheim built a 3-0 lead in the first two periods of Game 6, the Ducks seemed well on the way to their second appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost Game 7 to New Jersey in 2003.

But the Red Wings didn't go quietly, outshooting Anaheim 16-3 in the third period and scoring three times against goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

After Pavel Datsyuk scored his second power-play goal with 3:04 remaining to draw the Red Wings to 4-3, those final frantic three minutes made Selanne afraid he was watching it all - the series, the trip to the finals - slipping away.

"I have never been so nervous and so shaky in a hockey game in my life - and I was on the bench," he said. "We did not want to go back to Detroit. It wasn't pretty, but now, who cares?"

And when the clock ran out?

"I took several deep breaths," Selanne said, inhaling and exhaling to demonstrate. He and his teammates figure things will only get tougher when they face the upstart Senators, who ousted the favoured Sabres in five games in the Eastern Conference finals that ended last Saturday.

"It's not going to be easy," Selanne said. "They're sound all-around. I think it's going to be very exciting."

Defenceman Chris Pronger said: "We have the biggest step to go yet. Ottawa's sitting at home and, I'm sure, really eager to get started."

Said fellow blue-liner Sean O'Donnell: "We don't have a sense of anything being complete. Although winning the Western Conference is a feather in our cap, that's not the goal we set in training camp."


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