Mighty once and for all.
The Ducks, once derided by hockey purists for their goofy nickname and cartoonish logo, completed their ascent to the top of the NHL by winning their first Stanley Cup championship with a 6-2 rout of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at the Honda Center.
As a standing-room-only crowd of 17,372 stood on its feet and roared in the final four minutes, the Ducks, winning the series in five games, brought home the trophy they openly talked about pursuing when training camp began in September.
“I think we’ve been holding back on the emotions for the last couple of days and it’s one of those things that’s kind of surreal at this point,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. “You can’t really fathom that we’ve got it done.”
Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks’ captain, was named the Conn Smythe winner as the most valuable player in the postseason.
In its 13th season as an NHL franchise, the team formerly known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim became the first California-based team to win the Stanley Cup and the first out of the Pacific time zone to win it all since the 1925 Victoria Cougars.
The Ducks announced they were serious about attaining a title when they acquired Chris Pronger last summer and then rose to the league’s elite with points in their first 16 games to set a record.
An early-season blitz through the NHL had Anaheim at a league-best 27-4-6 in December before injuries threatened to evict them from the penthouse. But the Ducks got healthy and prospered in the end as they never needed a seventh game in the playoffs to oust Minnesota, Vancouver, Detroit and, finally, Ottawa.
Having come up short last season with a loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference finals, Ducks General Manager Brian Burke immediately decided to shoot for the Cup.
“I thought we could get here,” Burke said. “We sat down after we lost to Edmonton last year and said what were we missing. What was the difference in that series? We felt if we could add one more elite defenseman and we made a list.
“We didn’t know if we could go and get him or not. But as soon as we knew Chris Pronger was available, we turned over every stone to get him.”
The final victory was a mirror image of their season.
Andy McDonald and Rob Niedermayer helped them bolt out to a two-goal lead after one period, but the Ducks stumbled a bit in the second and saw their lead cut to one twice by the Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson before putting the game away with goals by Francois Beauchemin, Travis Moen and Corey Perry.
“That’s our team,” said a jubilant Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who needed to make only 11 saves. “I thought we had a big game tonight. We really played well, especially in the third. We found a way to win just like we did all year.”
Moen, a third-year checking forward, scored twice to finish with seven goals in the playoffs. The first one was credited to him and gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead when a blunder by the Senators stalled their comeback hopes.
Hounded by a rushing Rob Niedermayer, Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips tried to carry the puck out from behind the net as goalie Ray Emery went to get back into position and it got stuck in the goalie’s right skate before trickling into the net.
“The first one was pretty lucky,” Moen said. “I think Rob deserves more credit on that one than me. I just dumped it in.”
In all, the Ducks torched Emery for six goals on 18 shots.
“They played better than us,” Ottawa center Mike Fisher said. “You gotta give them credit. They played well. They’re a great team.”
Scott Niedermayer now has one more Cup to add to his three he won with the New Jersey Devils, one against the Ducks in 2003.
“I can’t believe how fortunate that I’ve been just to poke my nose in the right door and end up in the spots I’ve been in to be able to do this,” he said.
And there are many who are champions for the first time.
“You never know if this was going to happen,” Rob Niedermayer said. “You need luck. You need everybody to play well. We got that. I can really sit back and finally say that I’m a Stanley Cup champion.”
Carlyle joked that he’ll allow the Ducks to break their 10-minute rule for celebrations after victories. For those who experienced the Game 7 defeat against New Jersey in 2003, this will wash away that unpleasant taste of falling short.
“To me, it’s a much better feeling,” Giguere said. “It’s definitely a different scenario. We’re just really excited that we were able to get to this point.”
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No Canadian team has triumphed in the Stanley Cup finals since Montreal defeated the Kings, 4-1, in 1993:
2007: Ducks def. Ottawa, 4-1
* 2006: Carolina def. Edmonton, 4-3
* 2005: Tampa Bay def. Calgary, 4-3
* 1994: N.Y. Rangers def. Vancouver, 4-3