A perfect evening had just closed with a dramatic Ducks’ victory, iced in the sixth round of the shootout by Finland’s Sami Vatanen as the Ducks beat the Winnipeg Jets, 5-4, on the team’s first number retirement ceremony.
“We've got good character in this team,” Vatanen said.
That asset was well known within Selanne, who retired last season as the Ducks’ all-time goals and assists leader, a 2007 Stanley Cup also part of No. 8’s legacy.
Selanne’s influence remains in Anaheim
Ducks players paid their full respects to Selanne during the nearly two-hour-long ceremony, positioned throughout near the team bench as Ducks owner Henry Samueli said, “When the moments got bigger, so did Teemu.”
Rookie center Rickard Rakell was listening, then sent the game to overtime with his second goal of the night.
Rakell said he spent cherished time last season chatting with Selanne while they inspected the feel of their hockey sticks in a room between the bench and dressing room.
And after a two-goal night that included two assists, he added a must-have shootout goal that preceded Vatanen’s winner.
Selanne “was here all the time [last season], and as a rookie, you had to be here really early too, so we hung out in the stick room … great role model,” Rakell said. “Everything he did, you’d watch him every day.”
During the ceremony, Rakell’s attention remained affixed.
“It was amazing, really admire him as a hockey player and person,” Rakell said. “Special night out there.”
The one-goal-victory thing is becoming historic
Anaheim (27-10-6) set an NHL record with its 11th consecutive home victory by one goal. Five have been in regulation, two in overtime, four by shootout.
Overall, the team is 21-0-6 in one-goal games, the only NHL team to remain unbeaten in regulation in the category.
“In a perfect world, we'd like to win a couple 4-0 games, but until we do, it's better than the alternative,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “There's 39 games left for us, and it's a process. We're going to hope we get better. This is our month to practice and get better, so hopefully we will continue to get better.”
Rallying from down two goals when starting the third period in a two-man disadvantage isn’t too shabby.
“We know, even after two, if we're down a couple of goals, we can come back and win the game,” Vatanen said.
The power-play is making strides too
Before Sunday, the Ducks were 2-for-30 on the power play in their previous 10 games and hadn’t scored two power-play goals in one game since Dec. 7 at Winnipeg.
Rakell and Kyle Palmieri scored a man up Sunday, and the Ducks are now an admirable 4-for-16 on the power play in the last four games.
For good measure, they killed off that two-man advantage.
“We haven't had a game in recent memory where special teams have gone out and won us the game,” Boudreau said. “Tonight, hopefully that's a turnaround of things to come. You need special teams to be really good. We talked about if we could kill this five-on-three we were going to catch them. And we knew that the crowd would get into it, and we would have a chance.”
Ducks' three shootout goals Sunday are more than the Kings have all season
The defending Stanley Cup champions are 2-for-25 in the shootout.
Given that the Ducks have already played 16 games that have advanced beyond regulation, they’ll like their chances if that happens again when they visit Staples Center on Saturday.