Avs @ Ducks Recap: The Great(est) Eight

@NHL

With nothing else to play for for the West's top two teams, the regular season's final game was about honoring the career of one incredible hockey player (and another, while we had the chance).

Final Score: Ducks 3, Avalanche 2 (OT)

First Period Recap: If you didn't hear anything about it before pregame, there was no way you could miss it before the puck dropped: Ryan Getzlaf took the night off from bearing the C on his chest and passed it off to Teemu Selanne in the final regular season game of his career, which is the most heart-warming gesture I've seen since Sam Tageson in San Jose.

As a pre-playoff precaution, Jonas Hiller, Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, Tim Jackman, and Bryan Allen were all scratches tonight. The Avs played it safe as well, sitting Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie, John Mitchell, Cody McLeod, and Semyon Varlamov.

About a minute and a half into the game, the Anaheim acting captain took the ice for his first shift and the Honda Center crowd roared every time he touched the puck. Fortunately or unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our friend Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was also likely playing his swan song tonight (more on that later).

The first half of the period was very seesaw-ish, as one team made their way down the ice looking for a scoring chance before the other team foiled it and took the puck the other way. It was very evident that although both teams wanted to finish the regular season with a win, the game just lacked a playoff atmosphere. There was no reason to play as such, as both teams already had their playoff position and opponents set up.

It appeared as though Colorado would get on the board first, as John Gibson had trouble corralling a tough angle shot from Nick Holden that bounced across the crease to a waiting Brad Malone. Gibson got his pad across in time to stop the initial rebound attempt, but Malone hacked at the puck while Gibson and Luca Sbisa tried to fight him off. Malone eventually got the puck over the goal line, but the refs waved the goal off. A quick video review overturned that, however, and Malone's third goal of the season would stand. Avalanche 1, Ducks 0

Shortly thereafter, it looked like Kyle Palmieri would even the game up, outskating Holden along the boards and attempting a wraparound that Giguere had to dive across the crease to stuff, but the former Duck got his paddle over to the far post in time to preserve the Avs' lead.

During a timeout towards the end of the period, Giguere was honored with a well-deserved video tribute and a standing ovation. Even if tonight's crowd wasn't as enthusiastic to see you stop the puck as they used to be, we still love you #35!

The rest of the period continued with that "meh" pace all the way to the horn. The Ducks left the ice with a 1-0 deficit, while shots evened out at nine.

Second Period Recap: Anaheim came out in the second period a lot hotter than they did in the first, which should come as no surprise to anyone by now. Giguere had his work cut out for him in the early going, but he remained sturdy and kept his old team off the board. The main objective of the Ducks appeared to be getting Teemu a goal, even sacrificing some good-looking chances to feed their acting captain.

Halfway through, it was Andrew Cogliano who picked up the first penalty of the game for roughing up Jan Hejda. The Ducks' first penalty kill was successful, and the game would remain 1-0.

Teemu drew the first Avs penalty on Nate Guenin, who was playing in his 100th NHL game tonight. Before Colorado could touch up, Luca Sbisa found himself with the puck just to Giguere's right, but elected on waiting for #8 to cut down low and feed him for the goal, which unfortunately failed. The ensuing penalty was killed off with the greatest of ease, and the game returned to its even-strength leisurely vibe.

The Ducks would get another man advantage off Guenin, as Palmieri tried to make another attempt from behind the net but was taken down. This was the epitome of your typical Washington Capitals power play: get the puck to #8, who will be found inside the left faceoff circle, and let him tee up a shot while the crowd hung halfway out of their seats, dying to see him light the lamp. While Selanne got a few pretty good looks, Giguere turned all but one of his attempts aside. The exception was a shot blocked by Patrick Maroon, who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After the game returned to even strength, it didn't take long for the visitors to build on their lead. Maxime Talbot tossed a bouncing puck into the slot that Saku Koivu and Ben Lovejoy failed to make contact with. Stefan Elliott did though, and took a swat at the puck that found its way by Gibson. Elliott picked up his first goal of the year on the last game of the year. Avalanche 2, Ducks 0

The second period concluded similarly to the first: slow and uneventful. With one period left in Fan Teemu Appreciation Night, the Ducks found themselves trailing by a pair, but with a 24-19 shot advantage by virtue of the second period's fast start.

Third Period Recap: Ever since I heard of this idea thought up by one awesome Ducks fan to give Teemu a standing ovation during all of his shifts in the third tonight, I was on pins and needles waiting to see how it played out. A minute and a half into the period, my intrigue was answered, and the crowd reaction was everything I hoped it would be. Proud of you, Honda Center!

The Ducks clearly fed off the Teemu-inspired energy, and on that same shift, Mathieu Perreault carried the puck along the right boards and threw the puck across the ice to Patrick Maroon making a backdoor cut. Stick touched biscuit, biscuit touched net, and the crowd was already on their feet, resulted in the quickest fan response to a goal in NHL history, probably. Avalanche 2, Ducks 1

For a short period of time, the game went back to "going through the motions", as the Avalanche feed put it. However, it didn't take long for some more excitement to rock the building, as Sami Vatanen found Koivu parked right in front of the goal. As Giguere slid across the blue paint to challenge him, the veteran cut back across the crease and tucked the puck in the net. Jiggy could only watch as he was sliding away from the play. Tie game! Ducks 2, Avalanche 2

The crowd had a good reason to get a little louder during one of Teemu's shifts as he cut down the middle of the Avs' defense, but his try was broken up at the very last second, much to the dismay of everyone in attendance. [Ed. Note:  on that play the guy sitting two seats over from me yelled out "DO THE RIGHT THING JIGGY!" to everyone's amusement. -CK] On a related note, it took about halfway through the period for Mike Haynes, Colorado's play-by-play broadcaster, to become irritated with all of the standing ovations. You suck so bad, Haynes.

While Ducks fans wanted nothing more than to see Teemu to be the hero and score the game-winning goal, that title would instead go to Gibson, who stood tall in the final two minutes of regulation, denying a few good Colorado chances to keep the game tied and send the game to overtime. Deuces after 60 with the Ducks holding a 34-30 shot advantage.

Overtime Recap: While the Avalanche came out in the extra session looking like the more dangerous team, it was Anaheim who took only a minute and a half to capitalize. Vatanen took a shot from the point that Giguere stopped, but couldn't prevent from rebounding front and center in his crease. Devante Smith-Pelly picked up the loose puck, and instead of going for the follow-up, wisely dished it off to the wing where Nick Bonino would write the happy ending before closing the book on the 2013-2014 regular season. Ducks 3, Avalanche 2

* * *

The Good: The Ducks begin postseason play as Western Conference champs*, which is pretty cool. Also, The Future, John Gibson, is now 3-0 in the NHL.

The Better: Anaheim enters the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, with the last three coming against playoff-bound teams. After the way this month started out, I definitely didn't expect to see the Ducks pick up all six points in these games, but they made it happen, and now they have a very sufficient amount of momentum to take into this series against Dallas. This is a very different scenario than the one we saw last year at this time, and I love it.

The Best: Everyone in attendance was absolutely amazing. Seeing the fans' reaction to Teemu's last non-playoff game on a stream was nothing short of incredible; I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be there in person. Paul Kariya even made his return to Anaheim to support his former linemate [Ed. Note:  No indication of that in the building, that I saw, which is a bummer for me, but I'm sure would have rubbed some fans the wrong way. -CK]. The overwhelming amount of love shown for Teemu tonight was really something special, and the man deserves nothing less. As the cherry on top, the three stars of the game were:
3rd Star: Teemu Selanne
2nd Star: Teemu Selanne
1st Star: Teemu Selanne

After the three star announcement, Teemu showed that special Teemu class, and took Giguere for one last lap around the Honda Center rink as "My Hero" played over the loudspeakers, with the crowd ready to blow the roof off the building with an outpouring of emotion.

Teemu Selanne named all three stars in last game, takes final lap with Giguere (via CBSEyeOnHockey)

* * *

3rd MVD: Saku Koivu. Lost among all the #8 tributes is the fact that there was ANOTHER Finn in a Ducks jersey who could have very possibly played his last regular-season game. While this fact by itself is deserving of one of these three spots, he also potted the game-tying goal.

2nd MVD: Jiggy. In his last game ever at Honda Center with the exception of a Western Final matchup, he was the second-most loved guy in the building tonight behind the man of the hour. Even though he was wearing the wrong jersey to be considered one of the night's Most Valuable Ducks, and played spoilsport all night against Teemu, Giguere will always be remembered for all he accomplished for this franchise, and the fans rightfully made sure he knew that.

1st MVD: Teemu. Duh. WE LOVE YOU, TEEMU!

* * *

Next Game: Western Quarterfinal Game 1: Wednesday, April 16th, 7:00 PM vs. Dallas Stars

Selanne_and_jiggy_medium

Thank you, Teemu. Thank you, Jiggy.

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