6-6-07 - The Anaheim Ducks aren't called mighty anymore. Now they can simply answer to Stanley Cup champions.
The 14-year-old Ducks captured their first NHL title with a 6-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, ending the series in five games in front of the home folks again.
For the first time, the Stanley Cup resides in California and at the expense of Canada, which hasn't boasted a winner since Montreal in 1993. Calgary, Edmonton and now Ottawa -- in its first trip since the Senators were reborn in 1992 -- each had a chance the past three seasons only to be done in by a U.S. club from the sun belt.
Tampa Bay, Carolina and Anaheim aren't exactly traditional hockey hotbeds but they have been the Cup's warm weather homes since 2004. Wayne Gretzky made the game a happening in Southern California when he came to Los Angeles in 1988, the Ducks made it legit two decades later with their second trip to the finals.
No longer Disney's darlings, the Mighty Ducks' movie days are gone. A victory rally awaits them Saturday night.
Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer won the Cup for the fourth time, and brought his brother Rob and teammates Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger along for the ride for their first. Rob Niedermayer is one of three Ducks left from the losing side in 2003 when Scott Niedermayer and the New Jersey Devils captured their third title in Game 7.
Only Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere had something to smile about that year when he was given the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the playoffs MVP. This win was so much sweeter as he stopped 11 shots in the clincher. The biggest roar for him came when Antoine Vermette had the puck slide wide of the post during a penalty shot in the third.
Scott Niedermayer finally earned the MVP award many thought he deserved four years ago. His biggest thrill came when he handed the Cup off to Rob, one of the reasons he left New Jersey for Anaheim before last season.
"That was something I'll never forget," Scott said. "You can't even dream that stuff. It doesn't get any better."
The 36-year-old Selanne waited 14 seasons to become a champion. After leading the Ducks in scoring this season, he capped off the year with a title. Pronger was on Edmonton last season when the Oilers lost in seven games to Carolina. He returned to the lineup for the clincher after serving a one-game suspension.
A perfect finish after demanding a trade from Edmonton last summer.
"This is a special moment," he said. "It's always worth it when you win it."
Sticks and gloves flew in front of Giguere when it ended. Fireworks went off and streamers fell as the Ducks rushed off the bench to celebrate.
Selanne bounced on his skates and shook the Cup after Pronger handed it to him on the opposite side of the ice from where a banner dropped signifying the Ducks' championship. Heavy showers of confetti fell to the ice.
"What an unbelievable feeling. I've been waiting a long time," Selanne said. "What an ending. ... There were some times when I never thought this would happen."
Asked if this was the end of his career, Selanne said, "I don't know."
Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson, the first European captain in finals history, came up short of his first championship in 11 seasons. He supplied all the Ottawa offense despite feeling the wrath of fans, who booed him all night in response to his shooting the puck at Scott Niedermayer in Game 4.
Andy McDonald started the scoring 3:41 into the first period with a power-play goal, his third tally in two games, and Rob Niedermayer made it 2-0 with 2:19 left in the frame. Travis Moen had two goals, one that never touched his stick and another in conventional fashion.
Alfredsson scored twice in the second period, including a short-handed goal that cut Anaheim's lead to one for a second time, but the Senators couldn't shake off a fluke goal that defenseman Chris Phillips put into his own net with a pass off the skates of goalie Ray Emery.
That one was credited to Moen.
When Francois Beauchemin scored a power-play goal with 1:32 left in the second, the Ducks' two-goal lead was back and the excited crowd anticipated an appearance by the Stanley Cup that sat in a crate offstage.
By then it was just a matter of time for the Ducks, 8-0 at home in series-clinching games -- including 4-0 this year when they dropped the mighty from their name but not from their game. In the building formerly known as the Pond, Anaheim is 6-0 during the finals.
In the middle of the third period, the buzzing and quacking crowd serenaded Emery, called for the now-polished Cup, and bellowed with delight after each whistle.
The Ducks played five games above the minimum in the postseason and went past five games only in the Western Conference finals when they won three straight to wipe out Detroit in six.
Ottawa also had a quick run to the finals, needing only five games in each previous series. But the Ducks proved too tough with their hard-hitters and tight checkers shutting down the Senators' top forward line that was broken up after leading the NHL in playoff scoring.
Anaheim is the first West Coast city to lay claim to the silver chalice since Victoria of the Western Canada Hockey League defeated Montreal in 1925, two years before NHL clubs began exclusively playing for the Cup.
McDonald scored just after the first half of a 5-on-3 penalty expired, and Rob Niedermayer doubled the lead with a streak down the right side. He blew past Mike Comrie and backhanded a shot in off Emery with 2:19 left in the period.
Alfredsson made it 2-1 at 11:27 of the second, but Phillips' big mistake put the life back in the building. While being chased behind the net by Moen, Phillips pushed a pass as he came out the left side. The puck went into Emery's skates and found its way in with 4:16 left in the period.
It was shades of Edmonton defenseman Steve Smith, who short-circuited the Oilers' chances for a "three-peat" in 1986 when he put the puck in off the left skate of Grant Fuhr in the third period of Game 7 of the Smythe Division finals against Calgary.
But Alfredsson renewed Ottawa's hope with a short-handed goal with 2:22 left. The good feeling was soon dashed when Beauchemin ripped a long slap shot past Emery 50 seconds later during the same power play.
Moen made it 5-2 with his second of the game and Corey Perry gave the Ducks a four-goal lead with 3 minutes remaining.
Emery never looked comfortable in net, showing some of the nerves he displayed in the series-opening loss. He allowed all six goals on 18 shots.