The Anaheim Ducks captured their first National Hockey League title in their 14-year history with a 6-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, ending the series in five games in front of the home folks yet again.
For the first time, the Stanley Cup resides in California and at the expense of Canada, which hasn't boasted a winner since Montreal in 1993.
"Canada loves their hockey, and from what I heard out there, we have quite a few fans who love their hockey out here, too," said captain Scott Niedermayer, a four-time champion from British Columbia and this year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Calgary, Edmonton and now Ottawa - in its first trip since the Senators were reborn in 1992 - each had a chance the past three seasons only to be done in by a U.S. club from the sun belt.
Wayne Gretzky made the game a happening in Southern California when he came to Los Angeles in 1988, the Ducks made it legit two decades later with their second trip to the finals. No longer Disney's darlings, the Mighty Ducks' movie days are gone. A victory rally awaits the new Ducks on Saturday night.
Niedermayer brought his brother Rob and teammates Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger along for the ride for their first Stanley Cup. Rob Niedermayer is one of three Ducks left from the losing side in 2003 when Scott and the New Jersey Devils captured their third title in Game 7.
Only goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere had something to smile about that year when he was given the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the playoffs Most Valuable Player. This was so much sweeter as he stopped 11 shots in the clincher. The biggest roar for him came when Antoine Vermette had the puck slide wide of the post during a third-period penalty shot, the 10th in finals history. Pronger had the only successful attempt last year.
Scott Niedermayer finally earned the MVP award many thought he deserved four years ago. His biggest thrill came when he handed the Cup off to Rob, a big reason he left New Jersey for Anaheim before last season.
"He's one of the assistant captains, maybe not quite the seniority, but I figured I'd use my rank as captain to make that decision," Scott said. "I thought it would be pretty special to be able to do that."
The 36-year-old Selanne, the Ducks' leading scorer this season, waited 14 seasons to become a champion. Pronger was on Edmonton last season when the Oilers lost in seven games to Carolina. He returned to the lineup for the clincher after serving a one-game suspension.
A perfect finish after demanding a trade from Edmonton last summer.
"This is a special moment," he said. "It's always worth it when you win it."
Sticks and gloves flew in front of Giguere when it ended. Fireworks went off and streamers fell as the Ducks rushed off the bench to celebrate.
Selanne bounced onhis skates and shook the Cup after Pronger handed it to him on the opposite side of the ice from where a banner dropped signifying the Ducks' championship. Heavy showers of confetti fell to the ice.
"I was just like I couldn't believe it, it's going to happen," Selanne said. "So much hard work, so many years to dream about that moment.
"I've played so many games for this dream, and there has been times I didn't know if it was ever going to happen."
Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson, the first European captain in finals history, came up short of his first championship in 11 seasons. He supplied all the Ottawa offense despite feeling the wrath of fans, who booed him all night in response to his shooting the puck at Scott Niedermayer in Game 4.
Andy McDonald started the scoring 3:41 into the first period with a power-play goal, his third tally in two games, and Rob Niedermayer made it 2-0 with 2:19 left. Travis Moen had two goals, one that never touched his stick and another in conventional fashion.
Alfredsson scored twice in the second period, including a short-handed goal that cut Anaheim's lead to one for a second time, but the Senators couldn't shake off a fluke goal that defenseman Chris Phillips put into his own net with a pass off the skates of goalie Ray Emery.
That one was credited to Moen.
When Francois Beauchemin scored a power-play goal with 1:32 left in the second, the Ducks' two-goal lead was back and the excited crowd anticipated an appearance by the Stanley Cup.
By then it was just a matter of time for the Ducks, 8-0 at home in series-clinching games _ including 4-0 this year. Anaheim is 6-0 at home during the finals.
The Ducks played five games above the minimum in the postseason and went past five games only in the Western Conference finals when they won three straight to wipe out Detroit in six.
Ottawa also had a quick run to the finals, needing only five games in each previous series. But the Ducks proved too tough with their hard-hitters and tight checkers shutting down the Senators' top forward line that was broken up after leading the NHL in playoff scoring.
"We had some guys that didn't play to whatthey were playing in the playoffs," Senators coach Bryan Murray, a former coach and GM of the Ducks. "I think that's most disappointing and what we and they have to live with through the summer."
Anaheim is the first West Coast city to lay claim to the silver chalice since Victoria of the Western Canada Hockey League defeated Montreal in 1925, two years before NHL clubs began exclusively playing for the Cup.
"Their perseverance and determination in defeating the Ottawa Senators is a testament to the greatness of California's world-class sports teams," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement.
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