ANAHEIM -- Teemu Selanne couldn’t help it when he saw Jean-Sebastien Giguere after the postgame handshake. He grabbed his former teammate for a victory lap, the two clutched together as the crowd roared.
“When I saw him, I said, ‘Well this is the time,’” Selanne said. “Obviously we have had a great journey together, and we’re good friends. It was an honor to share this night for him too.”
It was the crescendo of Selanne’s final regular-season game Sunday, packed with emotion that highlighted the Anaheim Ducks’ 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche. There were video tributes and a rare appearance at Honda Center by former Duck Paul Kariya.
“What a great ending,” Selanne said. “It was really special. The fans made this unbelievable. It was special for me. All over the years this franchise has treated me great. The fans have treated me great. They see everything. It was a really big honor tonight. It’s almost overwhelming.”
Selanne, 43, won’t play the last game of his 21-year career until the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the game was an opportunity for the organization to honor him. He wore the captain’s "C" and played a season-high 18:42 in his 1,451st regular season game.
A homemade sign that spelled out “Thank You Teemu” in big block letters was pressed up against the glass to greet Selanne when he came out for warm-ups. More than the usual number of Finnish flags waved. The crowd gave Selanne standing ovations during his third-period shifts, and he had to keep his emotions in check.
“I did very good job,” he said. “Luckily I didn’t see any family members so it was a little easier … I’m going to remember this night forever.”
Colorado goalie Giguere, a longtime Duck that won the Stanley Cup with Selanne in 2007, got a loud ovation and waved to the season-high crowd of 17,528 when he was recognized during a first-period timeout.
“I’ve had the best time of my life playing here,” Giguere said. “Winning the Cup here was something I’ll never forget. It was a very special night. Whenever I come here, it feels like coming home. And it was nice to show my kids where they were born, so they were very excited about that.”
Giguere all but confirmed it was his last game, at least in the regular season. His family was in attendance.
“I haven’t announced it officially,” he said. “I’m definitely leaning toward that way. But for me, the focus in the playoffs, and when the time comes we’ll decide what’s next.”
Selanne had joked that he would throw former linemate Kariya in the trunk of his car and drive him to the game, and apparently he followed through because Kariya was shown in a suite sitting next to Joe Sakic, Colorado’s executive vice president of hockey operations.
Kariya made his second appearance at a Ducks game since he left Anaheim after the 2002-03 season. He still lives in Orange County.
“I talked one hour on the phone with him,” Selanne said. “I said, ‘I don’t take no for an answer.’ He was the only player I really invited. He has meant so much to me, all my best years and the chemistry I’ve had with him.”
Nick Bonino scored the game winning goal at 1:33 of overtime. Patrick Maroon and Saku Koivu erased a 2-0 deficit with goals 3:13 apart in the third period. Brad Malone and Stefan Elliott scored for the Avalanche.
“I think that’s going to be the most forgotten OT goal in the history of the Ducks,” Bonino said.
Each team was already locked into its first-round playoff matchup before the puck dropped. Anaheim won its first Western Conference title Saturday and will play the Dallas Stars. Colorado won the Central Division, its first division crown since 2002-03, when the St. Louis Blues lost to the Detroit Red Wings earlier Sunday, and will play the Minnesota Wild.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t have an easy time, even though nothing was on the line. Selanne’s lap with Giguere triggered his emotions.
“Oh, man, I’m glad there were no cameras on me because I was crying,” Boudreau said. “How can I not? That was as great a scene as you’re going to see in sports: two well-deserved heroes of hockey hugging each other after battle. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”