Ducks bring Cup to the West Coast
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nineteen years after Wayne Gretzky transformed West Coast hockey from a novelty into a rage and 14 years after Disney decided to purchase an NHL expansion franchise and name it after its fictional youth team, the Stanley Cup fi...
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nineteen years after Wayne Gretzky transformed West Coast hockey from a novelty into a rage and 14 years after Disney decided to purchase an NHL expansion franchise and name it after its fictional youth team, the Stanley Cup finally belongs to Southern California.
Managing the feat Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings never could and which Disney's ownership of the franchise never saw, the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night captured pro sports' most revered trophy by completing a five-game Finals triumph over the Ottawa Senators with a 6-2 victory at the Honda Center.
Scott Niedermayer, who already had three titles on his resume from his days with the Devils, lifted the Cup a fourth time -- the most for any active player. And this time, he did it first and in personally memorable style.
Hockey tradition has the victorious team's captain accept it from the commissioner and then thrust it aloft before passing it on to begin a triumphant relay from player to player. Niedermayer admitted he pulled rank by deciding that the first teammate to whom he would hand the Cup would be his younger brother Rob.
Four years before, at the Meadowlands, the two had shared a very different moment -- as opponents on the handshake line when Scott and the Devils beat Rob and the Ducks in the seven-game 2003 Finals.
"They're all different and I've never rated them and I'm not going to start now," Scott Niedermayer said. "But you don't really ever dream of passing the Stanley Cup to your brother -- at least, I never did. To be able to do that was definitely a highlight of my career.
"And then, to be with a handful of other guys who have played a long time and see them win -- guys like Teemu (Selanne) and (Chris) Pronger and Sean O'Donnell -- it's pretty rewarding."
Scott and Rob became the first brother tandem to win the Cup together since Brent and Duane Sutter with the Islanders in 1983.
Before Scott Niedermayer got the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Niedermayer did not produce eye-popping statistics in the postseason -- his assist on Travis Moen's door-slamming goal early in Wednesday night's third period was just his eighth to go with three goals in 21 games. But he logged enormous amounts of ice time each night and lent his championship know-how to a group of teammates that had won zero Cups between them.
"He belongs right at the top," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said when asked to assess Niedermayer's place in the NHL's all-time pantheon. "He's an amazing athlete and an amazing individual. He's so unassuming and you just feel fortunate that you're able to coach people like him.
"He's our leader and this is just another exclamation point -- another notch on his belt -- for all the things he's been able to accomplish."
Ottawa coach Bryan Murray couldn't be nearly as effusive in his praise of his own team, which crumbled repeatedly in these Finals. Wednesday night, facing extinction at the end of a nine-month quest, the Senators produced a stunningly poor effort.
"We had some guys that didn't play to (the level) they were playing in the playoffs," Murray said, not naming but seemingly referring to top-liners Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. "And I think that's most disappointing. And that's something that we and they have to live with through the summer."
Daniel Alfredsson was a notable exception. Ottawa's relentless captain scored two goals to twice halve Anaheim leads. Alfredsson's second goal, his playoffs-leading 14th, was a shorthander with 2:22 left in the second period that figured to set up a scintillating third. It had seemingly revived the Senators less than three minutes after Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery inadvertently pulled a puck away from defenseman Chris Phillips with his skate and then put it into his own net for a 3-1 Anaheim lead.
But Emery, who suffered through a nightmarish night, couldn't stop a power-play slap shot by Francois Beauchemin 50 seconds after Alfredsson's goal, and the Ducks took a two-goal lead into the third.
They put the clamps down with a brilliant defensive effort -- allowing just 13 shots on Jean-Sebastien Giguere's goal -- and blew it open over the final 20 minutes. Sens center Antoine Vermette summed up his team's futility by failing to get a shot on Giguere when awarded a penalty shot with 12:37 left.
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