Colorado Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk (23), of the Czech Republic, scores against Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller (1), of Switzerland, with defenseman Luca Sbisa, second from left, of Italy, defending during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Jean-Sebastien Giguere still has fond memories of nearly a decade spent between these pipes, winning and losing the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks.
With signs, chants and multiple standing ovations, the grateful Anaheim crowd showed it hasn't forgotten Jiggy. The goalie then reminded his former team he can still stop pucks for the Colorado Avalanche.
Giguere made 18 saves in his first game at Honda Center since the Ducks traded him nearly two years ago, and Milan Hejduk scored two goals in the Avalanche's 4-2 victory on Saturday night.
Although their current team gave another dismaying performance, the Anaheim fans showed their love for Giguere, the popular goalie who backstopped the Ducks to two Stanley Cup finals and their only NHL title. Giguere is the franchise leader with 206 victories for the Ducks, who traded him to Toronto on Jan. 31, 2010.
"I was pretty touched," Giguere said. "I consider this place my second home. My kids were born here, and I always had a lot of respect for Ducks fans. I never got a chance to say thanks to them."
Those fans finally got their say on Giguere, who spent parts of nine season with the Ducks—both Mighty and otherwise—from 2000-10. Giguere lost his job during the 2008-09 season to Jonas Hiller, who made 22 saves in the Ducks' 10th loss in 13 games under new coach Bruce Boudreau.
Much of Orange County's tight-knit hockey community showed up to welcome Giguere with cheers, jerseys and signs reading "We still get Jiggy!" and "I'm a goalie because of you, Giguere."
The Ducks honoured Giguere with a lengthy video tribute during the first TV timeout, and the Honda Center crowd gave another standing ovation to the goalie, who raised his stick in acknowledgment.
"Nothing beats that," Giguere said. "It's so nice to come back and see so many people you knew for so long. ... It's been so long. Two years is a long time in hockey."
Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2003 as the NHL's playoff MVP despite losing the Stanley Cup final in seven close games to the New Jersey Devils. Four years later, he helped the Ducks to California's only Stanley Cup title, winning 36 games in the regular season before Anaheim steamrolled through the playoffs.
Giguere started the 2009 all-star game, but was a backup by the time Anaheim reached the second round of the playoffs that spring. The Ducks traded him to the Maple Leafs several months later, and he faced the Ducks in Toronto before signing with Colorado last summer.
"It's definitely a special night for him," said Hejduk, who had his first multi-goal game of the season. "He's done so many great things for this franchise, and they didn't forget about it. ... We're a confident group right now, and we're trying to keep it up."
Kyle Quincey and Chuck Kobasew scored 1:16 apart in the second period for the Avalanche, who are surging into the new year with eight wins in their last 10 games. Ryan O'Reilly had two assists, and Hejduk finished it with a third-period power-play score for the Avalanche, who easily hung on to an early 3-0 lead in their 40th game of the season.
Lubomir Visnovsky and Bobby Ryan scored for Anaheim, which is stuck in 29th place in the 30-team overall NHL standings. Saku Koivu had two assists in his return to the Ducks' lineup after an eight-game absence with a strained groin.
"It's consistency that's bothering us the most," said Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler, who had an assist. "Teams are jumping on us, and we can't allow them to do that. After (the Avs got) two goals in the span of one minute, you could see the heads drop. It's never easy, but when you're slumping like this, it's a little bit harder."
Boudreau even attempted to shake up his slumping lineup by briefly splitting up captain Ryan Getzlaf and MVP Corey Perry, who have mostly played on the same line since they joined the Ducks during the 2005-06 season. Boudreau put the duo back together later, but Ryan's line with Koivu and Teemu Selanne accounted for both Anaheim goals.
"Once we get down, we're at a stage where it's so difficult for them to push through," said Boudreau, who expressed surprise his club hasn't shaken its funk. "It seemed like we came out in the second period and stopped hitting altogether."
The Avalanche gave a lead to Giguere immediately after his video tribute when Visnovsky's clearing attempt took a bizarre bounce off the boards. Hejduk slid behind the defence and beat Hiller for the former 50-goal scorer's first goal in 14 games.
Visnovsky's long shot late in the period ended Giguere's shutout bid, but Hejduk scored again on a power play early in the third.
NOTES: The Ducks went 2-5-1 in the absence of Koivu, their second-line centre and assistant captain. ... Despite his many playoff achievements for Anaheim, Giguere's best statistical season was in 2007-08, when he set club records for goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.922) before the Ducks' title defence ended in the first round.