Opening the season in his native Helsinki, Finland, was probably a nice inducement for Teemu Selanne to play one more year. Going back to Winnipeg, where he started his NHL career in 1992, was additional icing on the cake.
The date was hyped ever since the 2011-2012 schedule came out and Selanne’s return did not disappoint Jets fans. Ducks fans, however, were left less satisfied in the 5-3 defeat.
News conferences and a media hubbub noteworthy even by crazed Canadian hockey standards surrounded Selanne for weeks before he actually stepped foot in Winnipeg. His reception by Jets fans, the majority wearing Selanne jerseys, was even louder, if possible, than the one the met him in Helsinki.
“It was unbelievable,” Selanne said after the game. “I didn’t really know what to expect. It was something I could never imagine, it was so special. This is a dream come true to come back and play here one more time.”
The warm greeting was not extended to Selanne’s teammates and the Jets, while happy to see Selanne, were also happy to defeat the Ducks in an energetic and enjoyable game.
Kyle Wellwood put the Jets on the board at 4:54 and at 6:19 Blake Wheeler added a power play goal to make it 2-0. The Ducks were not particularly happy at that point, and it certainly added a sour note to the video tribute played during the first television timeout.
In a rare move, KDOC, which aired the game locally in Orange County, stayed with the video tribute and did not add to their advertising revenue. It was a nice gesture. Considering the technical difficulties they had broadcasting the remainder of the game, it was the least they could do. Cutting in and out, especially in the final minute of the game having no picture or sound, was frustrating, to say the least.
Although the Ducks were frustrated at their slow start, they did come back to tie up the game. Niklas Hagman put the Ducks on the board, tipping in Selanne’s shot at 14:34.
Corey Perry evened things up at 18:26, giving Anaheim a glimmer of hope for the outcome of the game to be positive.
Alexander Burmistrov, just back in the line up after coming off an injury, squashed the Ducks hopes for further rallying. Just :31 seconds into the second period, Burmistrov made it 3-2 and Winnipeg had the lead once more. They never gave it up.
Perry might have tied up the game again midway through the period, but the puck was never clearly over the line. Goaltender Chris Mason had to reach around behind him and laid down on the puck. The Ducks were convinced it went in and crossed the line. The referees were not nearly as certain and ruled it no goal. As the puck was under Mason, there was no way to determine if it was across the goal line or not and the no goal ruling stayed.
Andrew Ladd’s goal at 18:20 proved to be the game winner, although it was somewhat controversial. Nik Antropov wiped out Dan Ellis before Ladd put the puck in the net. No interference was called and the goal stood.
In the third period, the Ducks came out determined tie things up. Bobby Ryan had three shots on goal in the first 90 seconds alone, but Mason stood firm, stopping everything.
Then at 2:50, Zach Bogosian scored right off the draw, and made it 5-2.
Selanne got his second assist of the night on a power play goal at 10:26. Perry got his second of the evening, but that was all the Ducks could muster.
Pulling Elis did not help to shrink the gap in the score any further and the Ducks got to leave Winnipeg with another check mark in the loss column.
After all of Saturday’s games, only the Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets have fewer than 10 wins. Heading to Dallas to play the Stars on Monday night is not likely to yield a win for Anaheim either, but then again, you never know.