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Ducks found motivation in last season's disappointment

The Ducks drop the final regular-season game but will play Detroit in the first round of the playoffs.

April 27, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • Ducks' Teemu Selanne says that pride was the greatest influence of Anaheim's success this season.
Ducks' Teemu Selanne says that pride was the greatest influence of… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)

Teemu Selanne was asked what most influenced the Ducks' run to the Western Conference No. 2 seeding in the Stanley Cup playoffs that probably begin Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

“Pride,” the Ducks' legendary, 42-year-old wing said after practice Friday.

Selanne's reference was to the grisly 6-20-6 start last season that got a coach fired and sat badly with a veteran group that included members of the franchise's 2007 Stanley Cup champion team.

BOX SCORE: Phoenix 5, Ducks 3

“The disappointment of last season carried over to this year,” Selanne said. “We started … with everybody doing their jobs. That's the only chance you have.”

Indeed, six Ducks have scored 10 or more goals for a team that improved its winning percentage more than any team in the NHL.

The Ducks (30-12-6) wrapped their lockout-shortened regular season Saturday night at Honda Center with a 5-3 loss to Phoenix as Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata had a hat trick.

Paced by captain Ryan Getzlaf and first-line teammate Corey Perry's 15 goals apiece, the Ducks were unbeaten in regulation for 12 games from Feb. 27 to March 20 and set a team record with 13 consecutive home wins from Jan. 26-March 20.

They also had a knack for come-from-behind victories during those runs, finishing with 12 victories and two overtime losses after trailing.

“We won some games we shouldn't have won,” Perry said. “That's a testament to the character in our locker room. There's faces in there who want to win, and they know what it takes to win.”

Coach Bruce Boudreau's point is success starts with good goaltending, and the team surged thanks to 30-year-old rookie Viktor Fasth's 8-0 debut as a starter in the NHL.

Fasth's goals-against average before giving up four goals Saturday was 2.10, better than incumbent Jonas Hiller's 2.36, making Boudreau's selection of a Game 1 playoff starter a compelling point of intrigue.

Fasth said he was not amazed by his success, labeling it a continuation of his work in Europe.

“That's the game that took me here,” he said.

The Ducks were mired in a 5-8-2 slump March 22-April 19 before closing a trip to Canada last week with three consecutive wins to clinch the Pacific Division title.

Fasth said defensively, “We found our way back by staying close to guys, not giving them time out there. We have to skate hard all over the ice to win games and that's what we've been doing.”

There's concern, however, over how veteran players have slipped as the season has closed.

Saku Koivu hasn't scored a goal since March 16. Selanne had his minutes reduced in five consecutive early-April games. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin scored his first goal in 13 games Saturday. And power-shooting defender Sheldon Souray hasn't scored a goal since March 29.

“The first 25 games were good, but then I think it hit everybody — there's no time to recover and there's been nights it's been impossible,” said Selanne, adding he's “feeling better now,” proving it by scoring his 12th goal in the first period Saturday.

The Ducks' roughest stretch started with a 5-1 loss to the Red Wings on March 22, snapping the record home winning streak, followed by another defeat to Detroit two nights later. (The Ducks did win at Detroit, 5-2, on Feb. 15).

The Red Wings (24-16-8) clinched their 22nd consecutive trip to the playoffs Saturday by beating Dallas, 3-0. Detroit has defeated the Ducks in three of their last five playoff meetings.

“We're catching them when they're playing their best; it's going to be a real challenge for us,” Boudreau said. “Whatever the seedings are, Detroit is the favorite team here … three shutouts in the last six games. From experience … to the players they've got, they're the most experienced playoff team we could meet.”

Perry said he's confident the Ducks' veterans will contribute now that the Stanley Cup is in play.

“Whatever you did in the regular season is washed away,” he said. “ … You look at what those guys bring every day and game. They can score answer what you ask of them at crucial times.”

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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