When the last two Stanley Cup champions faced each other Wednesday at the Honda Center, playing beneath the banner that celebrates the Ducks’ 2007 title but amid hundreds of exuberant expatriate Detroit Red Wings fans, they produced a glimpse of playoff hockey on a day warm enough to think June had actually arrived.
The tension was exhausting but exhilarating. It didn’t end until the referee, after consulting with video replay officials at the NHL’s Toronto office, ruled Francois Beauchemin’s stick had not been above the crossbar when he batted down the rebound of a Ryan Getzlaf shot and put it past goaltender Chris Osgood 1:39 into overtime, giving the Ducks a stunning 5-4 victory.
Powered by Teemu Selanne’s power-play hat trick and Getzlaf’s club record-tying five assists, the Ducks extended their winning streak to five and ended the Red Wings’ winning streak at five. The hat trick was the 21st of Selanne’s stellar career and 12th with the Ducks.
“It showed tremendous character to come back and win this game against that team,” Getzlaf said, his emphasis unmistakable.
“You have to play every shift against them.”
It was great theater and terrific hockey, a memory to store away and pull out on tedious nights.
It’s early in the season, but two conclusions are inescapable after watching this game:
The Ducks, after sweeping a four-game trip and winning the always-difficult first home game after a long journey, are going to be a major factor in the Western Conference.
“The road trip was very good for us. We were able to be together as a team, have a couple parties and all of a sudden we’re good,” Selanne said.
And from now on, the phrase “Stanley Cup hangover” may not be used in the same sentence as the words “Detroit Red Wings.”
Playing their fifth game in eight nights -- four of those games on the road -- the Red Wings were defiant to the very end. Their final goal was a product of pure hustle, made possible when Dan Cleary beat Beauchemin to a dump-in in the corner and passed the puck to Henrik Zetterberg, who flicked a shot past Jean-Sebastien Giguere to tie the score with 1:23 left in the third period.
The Ducks, as is their habit, made things more difficult for themselves than they had to by taking too many needless penalties. Pavel Datsyuk’s first goal was scored with a man advantage, as was Zetterberg’s first, in the second period.
“It’s been a big problem. And I think it’s all reputation,” Selanne said. “We’re supposed to be the big, bad Ducks, but it’s a problem with discipline and it’s been a problem for four years.
“We want to have that reputation but there’s all kinds of toughness. It’s also a tough team that is disciplined and stays out of the box.”
Both teams experienced a month’s worth of highs and lows in one night.
The Ducks trailed by two goals in the second period but scored three times in a row, the last with 7:04 to play on fourth-liner Brian Sutherby’s one-timer.
The Red Wings (7-1-2) have come out of the gate with a strong offense, thanks to the addition of free agent Marian Hossa, if not a defense equal to their sterling efforts the last few seasons.
The teams were even after the first period after the Ducks lost an apparent goal at 18:18 because Selanne was -- correctly -- penalized for pushing Mikael Samuelsson into Osgood and preventing Osgood from stopping Chris Pronger’s long blast.
The Red Wings scored first, when Datsyuk redirected a Hossa’s shot, but the Ducks pulled even during a five-on-three when Selanne one-timed a pass from Getzlaf from about 20 feet out.
Datsyuk showed how he scored a career-best 31 goals last season when he perfectly redirected a pass from Hossa past the glove of Giguere at 7:53 of the second period to put Detroit ahead, 2-1. The Red Wings extended that to 3-1 during a power play, while Chris Kunitz was serving a hooking penalty.
In another bang-bang play, Zetterberg, standing with his back to the net, nonetheless managed to deflect a shot by Jiri Hudler past Giguere, who was screened by Cleary and banged his stick to the ice in anger.
While Datsyuk served a hooking penalty and Kronwall was off for high-sticking Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks scored, with 50.5 seconds left in the second period. Getzlaf fed Selanne for a quick cross-goalmouth pass to Niedermayer, who had sneaked deep into the zone and was near the right post. The puck caromed off Andreas Lilja’s foot before it could reach Niedermayer and Selanne was credited with his second goal.
If only this season could be as good as this game -- and lead to a playoff rematch of these teams. Two champions, playing like it.