ANAHEIM, Calif. — Teemu Selanne’s storybook career as an Anaheim Duck was honored Sunday in a memorable number-retirement ceremony, the evening closing with a fitting ending authored by Selanne’s countryman and former teammate.
The Ducks’ Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen, in his first NHL shootout attempt, rifled the game-winning shot past Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec, and Anaheim pulled out a 5-4 come-from-behind victory in front of a sold-out Honda Center crowd.
“I have to say I was honored to have the chance to do that thing,” Vatanen said of his sixth-round shootout winner that gave the Ducks a 3-2 margin in the bonus action. “I can say to my grandsons someday that I had the winning goal on Teemu’s night.”
Vatanen, who played alongside Olympic tournament MVP Selanne in last year’s Games in Sochi, Russia, said he was scoreless in seven shootout tries last season with minor-league Norfolk and was told he was next in line by Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau throughout this season, until the promise became reality Sunday.
“I wanted to pick him for a long time and I never did, but I thought Sami as a right-handed guy would be coming in across and … I thought we could beat Pavelec on that side,” Boudreau said, denying he went the sentimental route based on heritage. “That was the only reason.”
Said Vatanen: “And now I got to score in this kind of game? It felt unbelievable. A little bit, maybe, I was nervous before I went. Luckily, I got this one in.”
Selanne’s ceremony, marking the first jersey (No. 8) retired in Ducks history, was also something to cherish.
The tribute included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, team owners Henry and Susan Samueli, a collection of former teammates, including Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Saku Koivu and Chris Pronger, and team executives.
“This whole journey has been unbelievable,” Selanne told the sellout crowd after taking his spot on stage by walking down an aisle, slapping hands with fans. “I’m so lucky and thankful to have experienced all this.”
Standing atop a black rug on Honda Center ice, a watery-eyed Selanne, his wife, three sons and daughter watched the banner with jersey No. 8 rise slowly to the rafters after a 1,457-point career that included a 2007 Stanley Cup, 457 goals and 531 assists in Anaheim.
The Ducks and Jets then skated out for pregame warmups in all the various versions of No. 8 and 13 jerseys that Selanne wore in Anaheim and Winnipeg, where he was the NHL’s rookie of the year after producing a still-record 76-goal debut season.
Ducks players sat on an area by their bench throughout the nearly two-hour ceremony, and the Jets looked fresher early, jumping to a 3-1 first period lead, with each of the goals set up by rebounds off Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen.
Ducks center Rickard Rakell kept Anaheim in the game with a first-period, power-play goal, and then had assists on a second-period goal by Tim Jackman and a third-period backhanded shot by Kyle Palmieri that gave the Ducks further life after they survived an extended two-man disadvantage.
Rakell was needed again, scoring with 2:03 left in the third, to tie a franchise record for most points by a rookie in a game (four), which was accomplished by Ryan Getzlaf in 2006 and Stanislav Chistov in 2002.
“Feels great, especially when we got the win,” Rakell said after also scoring in the shootout. “Everything was going in today. We really wanted to win this game.”
The Ducks (27-10-6) also set an NHL record for most consecutive home wins by a one-goal margin (discounting losses or ties), with 11 in a row.
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