ANAHEIM, Calif. — As cliche as it is to say: Game 1 against the Calgary Flames showcased ‘vintage Ryan Getzlaf.’
Scoring a power play goal 52-seconds into the first period was a pretty good indication of the night Getzlaf was about to have.
The Anaheim Ducks captain was involved in every aspect of the Ducks 3-2 win. He was physical, he actually shot the puck, he kept his cool when things appeared to be at their worst.
“[Getzlaf] was our leader tonight,” said Ryan Kesler. “He’s our captain and he leads by example. He leads and we follow.”
Goaltender John Gibson said the same, “He’s the leader for a reason. He leads and we follow.”
Follow they did.
After the Flames took the lead in the second period, the Ducks noticed the Flames made one of the worst line changes in the history of line changes and took advantage.
“Well it was a good pass off the pads on the breakaway,” Getzlaf deadpanned after the game. “Those are things that [Rakell] does very well. He identifies his holes and where to be.”
“Yeah, obviously, I missed my shot,” laughed Getzlaf.
Getzlaf’s collected two points in the game, setting his career total at 101.
Jakob Silfverberg gave the Ducks the go ahead goal late in the second. In the third, Getzlaf ignited a somewhat nervous Honda Center crowd with a crushing hit on Mark Giordano.
Giordano heard a chorus of ‘boos’ each time he touched the puck. Over a week ago, the Flames defenseman incidental knee contact with Cam Fowler left the Ducks without one of the their top defensemen.
Getzlaf was quick to point out the hit wasn’t on Giordano just because of what happened to Fowler.
“It’s nothing other than it’s [Giordano],” said Getzlaf. “He was just the guy that had the puck … he kind of turned, and I don’t think he really saw me coming, so I tried to keep my shoulder down and stay on my feet, those things. Just went through the body.”
The Ducks needed the crowd’s energy as they faced a five-on-three penalty kill with 2:20 to play in the third. Getzlaf doesn’t kill a lot of 5-on-3’s during the regular season.
“Tonight was an example of our guy making a difference,” said Randy Carlyle.
“To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t normally use him on a 5-on-3 [penalty kill] in the regular season,” explained Carlyle. “But when you’re playing in the playoffs, that’s the thing that you ask those players to elevate their game, and use them in situations because there is so much on the line.”
Kesler concurred, “Getzy and the guys came up huge, especially late in the game when we needed that 5-on-3 killed. We did it.”
The Ducks went on to win their 26th straight home game against the Flames.
Getzlaf has looked like his old self in the stretch run of the regular season and into Game 1 of the playoffs. It’s the version of him that was nominated for the Hart Trophy after the 2013-14 season.
Carlyle pinpointed where he saw the change in his captain: “I think Ryan Getzlaf’s season really turned at the five game break we had. It wasn’t like he was a poor player before that. He’s been our captain. He’s a good player, but I think his ability to step up and dominate in games has been very evident from that point forward.”
As for Getzlaf, his focus has already shifted to Game 2 on Saturday.
“We got our one win tonight and we’re ready to move on to the next one,” said Getzlaf. “We’re going to have to be better. We were sloppy in some areas. They’re going to be better. We know that group over there. They’re going to respond. We’re going to make sure we’re ready to go.
“We’re going to have to earn everything.”
If Getzlaf continues to lead by example, the team is on their way to earning a lot in the future.