Ducks Settle Playoff Debate


The Mighty Ducks didn’t want to limp into the playoffs or wait for anyone else to usher them in.

So Friday night they took care of things themselves, clinching their first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs by decking the Dallas Stars, 3-2, in front of 17,174 at the Pond.

Dallas had been the hottest team in the NHL, having won seven in a row and going 11 games without a loss, but the Ducks’ determination won out.


“Now it’s like there’s no limits,” said Teemu Selanne, who led the way with his 49th goal and two assists. “I feel there’s no team we can’t beat.”

The Ducks could still finish anywhere from fourth to eighth in the Western Conference, but they are assured of a playoff spot even though ninth-place Calgary tied Vancouver on Friday. Eighth-place Chicago and Calgary play each other twice in the final four games. Either one can still catch the Ducks at 81 points, but not both.

“This was the way we wanted to do it,” said Paul Kariya, who scored his 42nd goal. “We don’t have to sit around and go in the back door. It’s a big win, and it keeps our streak alive at home and keeps the ball rolling. Now we don’t have to keep looking over our shoulder the way we have the past two seasons.”

Three players from the original Duck team are still there to celebrate the moment: Guy Hebert, Joe Sacco and Bobby Dollas, though Dollas was home with the chickenpox.

“For myself, Bobby and Joe, we feel like our careers [wouldn’t] be complete until we made it to the playoffs in Anaheim,” said Hebert, who watched from the bench Friday, getting another day of rest as Mikhail Shtalenkov made 25 saves.

“This is something we’ve been waiting for since we set foot here,” Hebert said. “We want to get there and make our mark. We don’t want to lose in the first round in four straight or have a lackluster performance.”


“It’s a great feeling,” Sacco said. “I’ve waited a long time. All the players have, but especially Guy and [Dollas] and myself since we’ve been here the whole time.”

Coach Ron Wilson, too, has been there from Day 1.

“You coach an expansion team, and there’s a good chance in a couple of years you’ll be cast aside and somebody else will run the show,” Wilson said. “I’m glad to be able to see us make the playoffs.”

In a not-insignificant sidelight, the victory made winners of the Mighty Ducks for the first time since the early days of the 1995 season. At 34-33-13, they are over .500 for only the third time in franchise history, and the other two times were with records of 3-2 and 2-1.

They also extended their franchise-record unbeaten streak at the Pond to 13 games. They haven’t lost at home since Colorado beat them on Feb. 2.

The Ducks have the third-best record in the Western Conference since Nov. 1, going 33-24-10. Only Colorado and Dallas have been better. (The Ducks have spent all season trying to make up for a 1-9-2 start.)

“I think we’re going to be one of those teams people just pray they don’t have to face,” Wilson said.


The Ducks led, 2-0, after goals by Steve Rucchin and Selanne, but Dallas, chasing Colorado for first in the Western Conference, didn’t give up easily. Defenseman Mike Lalor cut the lead to one goal at 14:27 of the second and Dave Reid made it 2-2 less than a minute later.

It was Selanne and Kariya, in classic fashion, who combined for the winning goal on a two-on-one rush with nine seconds left in the second period.

Selanne left two Dallas players in his wake at the blue line, and it was just a matter of whether he or Kariya would take the shot.

Selanne passed, and Kariya one-timed the puck sharply at Irbe, who tipped it up with his glove. That wasn’t enough to stop Kariya’s shot, though. It popped up and then fell in behind Irbe over the goal line for a 3-2 Duck lead with nine seconds left in the second.

Shtalenkov started instead of Hebert for the fourth time in five games and was sharp again, but Wilson described it as an opportunity to get more rest for Hebert and said Hebert will start the final two games.

“We’ve clinched a playoff spot,” Wilson said. “Now it’s time to rest and prepare for the playoffs.”