With the Anaheim Ducks celebrating their 30th anniversary this season, now is the perfect time to look back. In the last 30 years, the Ducks have made history — from the Disney days to winning the first Stanley Cup in California and the decade of contention that followed – and there is no shortage of moments that have amazed fans and propelled the franchise to new heights.
This is the fourth installment of the countdown. Previous entries can be found here:
15. Nick Ritchie Breaks the Game 7 Curse
After breaking through and winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, the Ducks continued to be a regular season juggernaut for over a decade. They reached the postseason nine times over the next 11 years, including four Pacific Division titles. Despite the consistency, this was the most frustrating era of Ducks hockey because of its association with devastating playoff heartbreak. During this time, they could not win a Game 7. Of their nine playoff runs, five of them ended in Game 7 defeats. This includes four straight years of Game 7 losses at home after the Ducks held a 3-2 series lead each time.
The second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers in 2017 was, in hindsight, a last hurrah for the Anaheim core. The young Oilers group led by Connor McDavid made for an interesting foil because they were the up-and-comers trying to knock off the older, more physical Ducks squad. Through six games, it felt like a familiar song for the Ducks. After a pretty significant comeback to take a 3-2 series lead, they came out flat in a 7-1 loss in Game 6, setting up the fifth year in a row that Anaheim had a Game 7 at home.
The series had plenty of fireworks through six games, so it stands to reason that Game 7 was the least eventful. Drake Caggiula gave the Oilers an early 1-0 lead that they took to the first intermission, but Andrew Cogliano tied it for Anaheim in the second period. Early in the third period, the Ducks found their Game 7 hero when Sami Vatanen connected with Nick Ritchie near the faceoff circle. He fired the puck past Cam Talbot’s right arm and they iced away the 2-1 victory.
Ritchie’s tenure in Anaheim is complicated by him not living up to the top-10 pick he was selected with, but his Game 7 goal remains one of the more significant in recent franchise history. And while fans may have grown frustrated with his tendency to take penalties, they’re grateful for him helping end Anaheim’s Game 7 curse. The countdown will eventually return to this series to highlight that Game 5 comeback.
14. Trevor Zegras Delivers “The Dishigan”
Trevor Zegras has been one of the league’s most exciting players since he debuted in 2020-21. He’s a smooth playmaker and confident in his bag of tricks, which is the kind of thing that leads to him attempting a Michigan goal in his fourth NHL game. He’s since managed to score the lacrosse-style goal several times, but even those goals pale in comparison to what he pulled off in Buffalo on Dec. 7, 2021.
Rickard Rakell rolled the puck along the boards behind Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to a waiting Zegras. With the defense allowing him all the time he needed, Zegras was able to lift the puck onto his stick. Instead of reaching to tuck it into one of the top corner posts, he flipped it over the cage. Sonny Milano was waiting on the other side, and a swinging bunt was all that was needed to tap it past Luukkonen.
The goal was a viral hit that managed to go beyond the insular hockey circles. Videos came out of kids trying the same kind of goal. The NHL has used it in various sizzle reels. John Tortorella hated it, and it does come with plenty of detractors. After all, it was only one goal scored in a December game against two lower-rung interconference foes. But it does represent a new era of creativity in the sport, and it’s cool to see a Ducks player leading that charge.
13. Francois Beauchemin vs. Jarome Iginla
The Mighty Ducks took on the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2006 Playoffs. The Flames were coming off a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final the year prior, and a Vezina season from Mikka Kiprusoff combined with perennial All-Star Jarome Iginla suggested they were ready for another deep run.
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Anaheim was in a period of transition. While Paul Kariya was two seasons removed from the Ducks roster, Teemu Selanne returned, and the team brought in Scott Niedermayer. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were making their NHL debuts. And in appearances, the team dropped the classic Wild Wing jersey for a black and purple baseball script. The following year, the team dropped the “mighty” from their name. This was a different team from the ragtag group that clawed their way to the 2003 Cup Final.
The Flames held a 3-2 series lead on the Ducks going into Game 6. Just over a minute in, Francois Beauchemin and Iginla were engaged in a fight. Beauchemin was in his first full year as a pro, and he only arrived in Anaheim after a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets during the season. Iginla was obviously a skilled scorer, but he was more than willing to throw his weight around during his 20-year career. But in a moment that seems like it was ripped from a movie, Iginla didn’t have the complete scouting report on Beauchemin.
Beauchemin is left-handed. Iginla had no idea until a forceful hook sent him straight to the ice. He got back up, but a flurry of wild punches from Beauchemin stopped any retaliation and a mutual takedown ended the fight. The Flames scored one goal the rest of the series and Anaheim went on to win the series in seven games. The fight turned the series on its head and represented the changing fortunes of both teams. The Ducks advanced to the conference finals of this year before winning the Stanley Cup the following year, while the Flames suffered a series of first-round exits for the next three years before a five-year playoff drought.
12. Ryan Getzlaf Breaks Franchise Points Record
Ryan Getzlaf was chasing history in several ways during his final season. He entered the 2021-22 season with 982 points, six short of Anaheim’s franchise record held by Selanne. On Oct. 21, 2021, and sitting on 988 career points, Getzlaf made a deft touch pass to a streaking Troy Terry in the neutral zone. Terry cruised in and scored, extending his personal point streak to eight games, but there was no hint of that in his celebration. Instead, his excitement was reserved for Getzlaf, Anaheim’s new franchise leader in points.
While Selanne will forever remain a favorite in Anaheim, having a franchise leader in points spend their entire career in a single uniform is significant. Getzlaf himself saw this franchise go through several transitions, with his leadership often being the unifying thread between these eras.
11. Petr Sykora’s 5 OT Winner
The modern NHL audience has a recent example of a playoff overtime game that simply will not end, but the five-overtime game between the Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 was only a reminder for their fans of the marathon between the Ducks and Dallas Stars in Game 1 of their second-round matchup in 2003.
Like Tampa and Columbus, the Ducks and Stars reached a fifth overtime period. Goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere finished that night with 60 saves, which was somehow only the second-most he saw in a game during this postseason. Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov was on the ice for nearly 64 minutes. After over two and one-third’s worth of hockey games, Adam Oates delivered a pass to Petr Sykora in the slot, who wasted no time putting the shot past goaltender Marty Turco. The game between Tampa and Columbus went further into the fifth overtime period, making this the fifth-longest game in NHL history. Anaheim went on to win the series in six games.
We’ll be back to crack the top 10 moments in Ducks history. In our next set of five moments, we’ll take a look at a heartwarming swan song with two Ducks legends.