Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne, right, celebrates his second goal of the… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Teemu Selanne looked at his surroundings a little more intently Friday at Honda Center, as if he were committing everything to memory in case it turned out to be his last home game as a Duck.
But Selanne, who will be 41 this summer a few days after his contract expires, wasn't ready for the team's season — or his stellar career — to end just yet.
The Finnish right wing scored twice against the Kings on Friday to give the Ducks a 2-1 victory that locked up a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs, beating goaltender Jonathan Quick for the decisive goal thanks to a spectacular, off-balance pass from compatriot Saku Koivu 5:54 into the third period.
It's the first time the Ducks and Kings have qualified for the playoffs in the same season and makes their rematch Saturday at Staples Center slightly less dramatic but still important because it will determine where each will finish among the top eight.
For the Ducks, who started the season slowly and lost several key players at various times — they had to start Dan Ellis in goal Friday because Ray Emery had a lingering lower-body injury — earning an extension of the season was a hard-earned reward.
"It has been grinding the last three months and I really believed this team deserved to be in the playoffs," Selanne said after scoring his 30th and 31st goals and moving up to 27th place on the NHL career scoring list with 1,340 points.
"That's why this was a big step forward. Now at least we can breathe a little bit."
The Kings had secured their spot earlier in the week but were motivated by the possibility of finishing fourth in the West and gaining home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
They played a hard, fierce game before a sellout crowd at Honda Center that included a loud contingent of Kings fans, but even the Kings acknowledged they had been beaten by an extraordinary effort by an extraordinary player.
"You do anything you can do to slow that guy down," said defenseman Matt Greene, who tried to get a body on Selanne at every opportunity and often succeeded.
"He's a Hall of Famer and rightfully should be. He still brings it every night…. He just gets the job done night in, night out. He's a stud."
Kings winger Wayne Simmonds, who again teamed with Kyle Clifford and Brad Richardson on the team's most dangerous line, also paid tribute to his rival.
"Selanne is a great player," Simmonds said. "Let him get a shot from the slot and no telling what can happen, and tonight he got two."
Simmonds had an excellent chance of his own from the slot late in the first period, with the Kings holding a 1-0 lead on Ryan Smyth's rebound of a Dustin Brown shot, but Ellis leaned forward to stop him. "A game-changer," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle called it.
Selanne brought the Ducks even at 9:55 of the second period. Jason Blake dug the puck out and passed it to Luca Sbisa, whose long shot was blocked by Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi. The rebound came to the right side to Selanne, who lifted it past Quick.
Blake started the play that turned into the winner by taking the puck along the left-wing boards in his own zone and passing to Koivu, who saw Selanne on the right side. Though Koivu was falling he managed to pass to Selanne, who lifted a shot from the inner edge of the right circle.
"You look at him and you don't think he's 40 years old," Carlyle said of Selanne. "He's in his happy place."
The Kings were less than happy about another low-scoring game — they've scored only 10 goals in six games without the injured Anze Kopitar and their power play, no great shakes with Kopitar in the lineup, is 0 for 16 without him. They're sixth and the Ducks seventh entering Saturday's rematch.
"We kind of let our foot off the pedal in the second half of the game," Simmonds said. "I think we could have done better."
No one did it better than Selanne on Friday.