After the Los Angeles Kings had been dispatched 3-1, and the franchise's first Presidents' Trophy secured, the Vancouver Canucks gathered at centre-ice and raised their sticks to the cheering Rogers Arena crowd.
Clearly, finishing first overall in the NHL standings, as the Canucks assured themselves with their result Thursday, meant more to a long-suffering fan base, than it did to the team, who had done their utmost to downplay the achievement. There was no champagne in the dressing room, but there was an acknowledgement of a campaign unlike any in the club's 40-year history.
"It is a big thing when you think about it," captain Henrik Sedin said. "For them to give us an ovation like they did, means a lot to us in here."
Vancouver erased a 1-0 deficit and held the Kings without a shot in the third period en route to its fifth straight victory. It was fifth time in Kings history that they had been held without a shot for a full 20 minutes, and they finished the night putting just 19 pucks on Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. Only Kyle Clifford beat him, with a first-period goal when Luongo was out of position.
For the home side, Daniel Sedin had a goal and an assist to reach the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career. He leads Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis by eight points in the Art Ross race, and was serenaded by chants of "M-V-P" by 18,860.
Christian Ehrhoff had the game-winning goal with 0.9 seconds remaining in the middle period, and Ryan Kesler potted his 37th goal in the closing stages to cement the victory.
The Canucks entered the game knowing that a victory would clinch first overall in the league standings. That became possible because the Philadelphia Flyers fell 1-0 to the Atlanta Thrashers earlier Thursday night, meaning no foe could catch the Canucks if they happened to beat Los Angeles.
Vancouver will now have home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs for as long as it is alive.
"For us to have home-ice in front of our fans, with the way we play in this building, it should be an added bonus," head coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Canucks conclude their season with four games against non-contenders, but there were elements of playoff hockey throughout the proceedings. Several post-whistle scrums ensued between the sides, and they exchanged thunderous tit-for-tat body checks in the third period.
Two Canucks plastered Kings forward Michal Handzus into the end boards, a hit that coach Terry Murray argued should have been an interference penalty. Handzus was momentarily dazed, and left the bench area before returning later in the period.
The visitors enacted a measure of revenge minutes later, when Clifford obliterated Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev with an arena-rattling hit. Tanev also stayed down, and left the ice with what the team is calling an "upper-body injury." Clifford was assessed a five-minute penalty for checking from behind, and a game misconduct.