By Kevin Geisheimer
Special to Kenoraonline.com
The Winnipeg Jets won an emotional affair 5-3 on Saturday night against the struggling Anaheim Ducks. The buzz and anticipation at MTS Centre for the return of Teemu Selanne was astonishing.
The crowd set the tone before the anthems were even sung, when they stood and chanted Teemu over and over. The MTS Centre reached near home-opener volume, when an emotional Selanne saluted the crowd, but it didn't stop there as Selanne received another standing ovation on his first shift of the game. Throughout the first period fans cheered when the Finnish Flash had the puck and booed everyone else on the Ducks.
"It was unbelievable!" replied Selanne, when asked for his reaction to the game and the support he received from Jets fans during the post-game press conference. "Like I said before I didn't know what to expect. It was something that I could never have imagined. It was so special. It was a tough loss but I was excited every second."
Even Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau said he got goosebumps.
" I was getting emotional. I can't imagine what Teemu was feeling during the first 10 minutes of the game. It would have been hard to play," he said.
Teemu wasn't the only one having a tough time playing. Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel said it was a challenge for the home team.
"It's a difficult situation to deal with. We are in our home rink and they are cheering for an opponent. Earlier in the game it looked like we were confused," he said.
The Jets were able to set the distractions aside early and score two quick goals 1:23 apart by Kyle Wellwood and Blake Wheeler to jump out to a 2-0 lead at 6:19 of the first period.
That was the exact start the Jets needed against a mentally-fragile Ducks team that are 1-12-2 when giving up the first goal this season.
Selanne did get his first point in Winnipeg since 1996, when he sent a high flip to Niklas Hagman, who batted it out of the air for his fifth of the season at 14:34. The crowd erupted again when the public address announcer credited Selanne with an assist on the goal. Selanne is on an eight-game points streak.
Jets fans got a little concerned when Corey Perry tied the game with a wrister that beat Chris Mason glove side for his 13th of the season at 18:26 of the first.
Also of concern was the absence of Bryan Little from the bench at the start of the second period. He was out due to an injury suffered from a puck deflecting off his ankle in the first period. His replacement on the top line, Alexander Burmistrov reassured the Manitoba faithful with a wicked wrist shot from the right circle beating Dan Ellis for his 7th of the season just 31 seconds into the period.
Goals by Andrew Ladd and Zach Bogosian pretty much sealed the deal. Corey Perry did tally another off a Selanne pass, which made the crowd go ecstatic again when the public address announcer credited Selanne with another assist on the night.
When asked what his last words were for the Jets fans Teemu responded with, "Thank you! Obviously the support over the past 20 years has been so special. Tonight really made my whole career. It was something I can always remember. There will always be a big piece of Winnipeg people in my heart."
The Jets are happy to put all the emotions of Saturday night's game behind them as they look to continue winning on home ice. Winnipeg will host the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
photos courtesy Ray Peters