ANAHEIM – If you're going to get dragged into a bar brawl, it's a good idea to have a guy who's been in one or two on your side. Add a few brash youngsters willing to jump into the fray without fear of consequences and you might just walk out in one piece.
"It's like a saloon fight," Selanne said following the game, reiterating his theme for this Western Conference quarterfinal series. "You take a punch and you give a punch."
The final blow Thursday was landed by 11-year veteran Sean O'Donnell. As if to say "I'm too old for this," the 34-year-old defenseman waited just 1:36 into overtime to beat Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
Calgary's Stephane Yelle had just exited the penalty box, but had yet to catch up to the play when O'Donnell took a pass from Chris Kunitz and unleashed a hard slapshot from just above the left-wing faceoff circle. It beat Miikka Kiprusoff between the pads.
O'Donnell is so long in the tooth that he can be forgiven for struggling to recall previous playoff heroics. "I think if you look back far enough you'll find a few [goals] there," he said. "But never in overtime."
"That was an interesting feeling, realizing that it got through his legs there and that the game was over and that you were in the one who shot it."
O'Donnell was mobbed by teammates, Calgary hastily left the ice and this punch, counterpunch series prepared for Saturday's Game 5 in Calgary.
That overtime was even necessary was surprising considering how one-sided the second period was. Anaheim dominated the action, scoring twice, drawing four minor penalties and outshooting the Flames 14-7.
One of those goals was Selanne's first of the playoffs. And it was just the type of goal that makes a sniper thankful for the continued crackdown on obstruction in the playoffs. Selanne knows a thing or two about taking his lumps in the postseason, having played through a broken thumb with San Jose in the 2001 Stanley Cup tournament.
But that was back when it wasn't a fair fight – when trying to stake a claim to the territory in front of an opponent's net meant painting a target on your back and taking whatever opposing defensemen had to dish out.
It's different now, a fact beautifully illustrated by Anaheim's second goal.
The Mighty Ducks were on the power play and they had Kiprusoff's doorstep covered. To his right, Joffrey Lupul. To his left, Selanne, a five-time 40-goal scorer.
Had Kiprusoff been a fugitive, he would have simply set his blocker down and surrendered. He was surrounded, outnumbered.
As it was, the goalie wouldn't give up without a fight. He stopped Andy McDonald's slapshot from just above the faceoff circle, but he was defenseless against Selanne's rebound.
"I've had a lot of good scoring chances," Selanne said. "For some reason they haven't gone in.
This one did, and it came less than four minutes after one of those kids, 20-year-old Ryan Getzlaf, had shed a check from Dion Phaneuf and outraced the rest of the Calgary defense for his first-career playoff goal.
Calgary would rally, of course, striking quickly in the third period to set the stag for O'Donnell's heroics.
"They were better than us early," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who scored both Calgary goals. "We had a big comeback and we were better than them late.
"Now it's time to get back home and regroup and get ready for Game 5."
Just be sure to round up your posse, Jarome, because it's sure to be a fight.
THIRD STAR OF THE DAY
Calgary winger Jarome Iginla willed his team back into Thursday's game after Anaheim took a 2-0 lead into the third period. He scored twice in a three-minute span and was the best forward on the ice for most of 25 minutes of ice time.
SECOND STAR OF THE DAY
Jason Spezza undressed Tampa Bay's Dmitry Afanasenkov before beating goalie John Grahame for Ottawa's first goal Thursday. Later he would initiate a scoring play that resulted in Dany Heatley's game-winning goal. The Ottawa centerman now has a league-leading nine points in the playoffs and points in 13 straight dating back to the regular season.
FIRST STAR OF THE DAY
Unassuming Sharks captain Patrick Marleau scored a hat trick Thursday, giving him a league-leading six goals in four games while pushing Nashville to the brink of elimination. Marleau scored twice on the power play as San Jose improved to 7-for-32 with the man advantage in the series. But it was his even strength goal off a pretty feed from rookie Steve Bernier that would hold up as the game-winner.
Welcome to the NHL playoffs, Matt Greene. Edmonton's rookie defenseman played just shy of seven minutes for the Oilers in place of injured blueliner Dick Tarnstrom. He spent almost as much time in the penalty box. Greene was whistled for three minor penalties in his playoff debut, with Detroit capitalizing on two for power-play goals in their 4-2 win.
Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish took issue with a few of the 11 minor penalties his Oilers were whistled for Thursday. But it was a no-call during a Detroit power-play that really set him off. Replays clearly showed Niklas Lidstrom picking off Edmonton forward Jarret Stoll while moving from the left point to the right point. Stoll went down, Lidstrom moved on and found himself with plenty of breathing room to unleash the game-winner. This penalty goes to officials Marc Joannette and Dean Warren.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR FRIDAY
Game 4: Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens: Rookie goalie Cam Ward will likely get a second straight start after leading Carolina to a win in Game 3. Ward is one of seven first-time playoff goalies who are playing key roles in conference quarterfinals. They say you can't win with inexperience in net, but 2006 may just prove that theory wrong.
Game 4: Buffalo Sabres at Philadelphia Flyers: It will be interesting to see what the Sabres have in store for Flyers defenseman Denis Gauthier. Gauthier was ejected from Game 2 for running Thomas Vanek from behind, then speared J.P. Dumont without earning a penalty in Game 3. This game is too important to put personal vendettas ahead of team concerns, but you can bet that Buffalo won't pass up an opportunity to finish a check on Gauthier.
Game 4: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche: Only two teams in playoff history have recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series. If the Stars are to have any hope of becoming the first team since 1975 to stage such a comeback, they'll need better clutch goaltending by Marty Turco. He has surrendered the tying goal with less than three minutes remaining in regulation in each of the last two games of this series.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT Watch
O'Donnell sure didn't look anything like the stay-at-home defenseman he most certainly is when teeing up the slapshot that would send Anaheim home a winner Thursday. He got all of it, and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff never had a chance.
"I don't know what happened," Kiprusoff said after the game. "I'll have to check it outI'll look at the video and then I'll know better what happened."
- Miikka Kiprusoff