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Crowd makes Selanne first star despite Ducks' loss

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WINNIPEG -- You won’t find many games where the third star brings down the house.

The MTS Centre faithful were plenty pleased with their Winnipeg Jets in a 5-3 victory Saturday night over the Anaheim Ducks, but they had the best of both worlds when Ducks right-winger Teemu Selanne, the former Jets superstar, collected two assists and got a standing ovation for his post-game selection.

After the final horn, Selanne also tossed a couple of sticks over the glass and into the seats.

"It was awesome," said Ducks winger Corey Perry, last season’s Hart Trophy winner. "He’s a class-act guy and I think they did it right tonight.

"They cheered every time he had the puck and they booed everybody else on our team. That’s a special night for him."

The night started with a roar when Selanne followed Ducks goalie Dan Ellis onto the ice for the warm-up.

The volume went up when the Ducks and Jets appeared for the start of the game, and the fans started an impromptu "Teemu, Teemu," causing another standing ovation before the national anthems.

Selanne acknowledged the fans at that point from the bench with waves and salutes.

"Emotion was very high," Selanne, 41, said after playing 19:04 in his first game here in almost 16 years. "I tried to stay focused but I was still very emotional. Just a great feeling. Even the warm-up, all the signs and the 13... Winnipeg Jets jerseys. I felt like everybody was watching me.

"I was thinking earlier, ‘What else could I experience in my career?’ There’s nothing that comes in my mind."

After the anthems, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau held Selanne out of the starting lineup for a purpose.

"My whole thought was, the starting lineup they don’t announce," Boudreau said. "I wanted to wait for a whistle and then get the reaction when he went on the ice. My biggest fear was that there would be no whistle for four minutes and I’d have to keep him on the bench. So I was glad that before the game they gave him the tribute they did.

"I thought this was more special."

Selanne hopped over the boards for an offensive-zone faceoff 32 seconds into the game and the people rose from their seats.

And as the game proceeded, they cheered the Finnish Flash each time he touched the puck, and booed other Ducks players when they had it.

All mixed in with the usual chants of "Go Jets Go."

"That was pretty chilling," Boudreau said. "Take the game away and it was pretty emotional. I was getting emotional. I can only imagine what Teemu was feeling in the first 10 minutes.

"It would have been hard to play. But we muddled through and the fans were great to him."

Boudreau had to call his time out after Blake Wheeler’s 2-0 goal at 7:19 of the first.

"When I called the time out, that’s was basically what I said: ‘You guys are focusing on everything but the game. That’s why we’re down 2-0.’ "

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was amazed by what he saw in the MTS Centre.

"The end result wasn’t what we wanted to give Teemu tonight, but we were pretty impressed with the way the crowd responded to him and rightfully so," Getzlaf said. "It says everything that we already know about him. He’s one of the best humans we know."

Selanne’s playing return to Winnipeg began in the wee hours of Saturday when the Ducks arrived from Chicago. Nearly two dozen fans were waiting for him at the team’s downtown hotel.

"It was 15 years ago when I played here last night," he said. "It was unbelievable that there were so many people waiting, almost three o’clock in the morning. That kind of stuff makes you feel very special."

The day also included a full-blown rock-star-style press conference on Saturday morning.

"It was a busy day for him," Boudreau said. "I wish it wasn’t quite so busy a day, but you knew that it would be with the buildup, whether Hockey Night in Canada or just the Canadian press.

"I mean, he deserved the reception he got, and he put in four fabulous years here. I didn’t want to sit there and say, ‘OK, you can’t enjoy this,’ because he deserved to get all the accolades he got."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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