The 14-year-old Ducks captured their first NHL title 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. 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.
Tampa Bay, Carolina and Anaheim aren't exactly traditional hockey hotbeds but they have been the Cup's warm weather homes since 2004. 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.
Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer won it for the fourth time, and brought his brother Rob and teammates Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger along for the ride for their first. Rob Niedermayer is one of three Ducks on the losing side of the finals in 2003 when Scott Niedermayer and the New Jersey Devils captured their third title in Game 7.
Only Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere had something to smile about that year when he was given the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the MVP of the playoffs. This win was so much sweeter as he stopped 11 shots in the clincher. The biggest roar came when Antoine Vermette shot wide on a penalty shot in the third.
Scott Niedermayer finally earned the MVP award many thought he deserved four years ago.
The 36-year-old Selanne waited 14 seasons and 1,041 regular season games to become a champion. After leading the Ducks in scoring this season, he capped off the year with a title. Pronger was on Edmonton last year when the Oilers lost in seven games to Carolina. He returned to the lineup for the clincher after serving a one-game suspension.
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.
Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson, the first European captain in finals history, fell short of his first championship in 11 seasons. He supplied all the Ottawa offense despite feeling the booing wrath of the fans, who chided 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 in the frame. 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 Ottawa 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 that sat in a crate offstage.
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 when they dropped the mighty from their name but not from their game. In the building formerly known as the Pond, Anaheim is 6-0 during the finals.
In the middle of the third period, the buzzing and quacking crowd serenaded Emery, called for the now-polished Cup, and bellowed with delight after each whistle.
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 erase a 2-1 series deficit and wipe out the Detroit Red Wings.
Ottawa also had a quick run to the finals, needing only five series in each to eliminate Pittsburgh, New Jersey and top-seeded Buffalo. But the Ducks proved too tough with their hard-hitters and tight checkers shutting down the Senators' top forward line that was broken up by coach Bryan Murray after the unit led the NHL in playoff scoring.
Anaheim is the first West Coast city to lay claim to the silver chalice since the Victoria Cougars of the Western Canada Hockey League defeated Montreal in 1925, two years before NHL clubs began exclusively playing for the Cup.