Getzlaf sets up Ducks’ success
Ryan Getzlaf insists he’s not a hockey fan and isn’t a student of the game.
The Ducks’ All-Star center doesn’t need to be an expert in hockey history as long as he’s making it -- and taking the Ducks along for an unexpected but intriguing ride.
Getzlaf earned four assists Saturday to run his season total to a club-record 64 and power the Ducks to an impressive 5-2 victory over the league-leading Sharks at HP Pavilion.
His clutch performance broke Paul Kariya’s single-season record of 62 assists, set in 1998-99. Of greater importance, his outstanding effort allowed the Ducks to sweep their trip to Edmonton, Vancouver and San Jose and solidify their hold on a place in the top eight in the West.
“Huge,” Getzlaf said of the wins, which extended the team’s streak to four in a row and its late surge to 10-2. “We’re desperate and we’re going to keep pushing and keep pushing right into the playoffs, hopefully.”
They won in a building in which the Sharks had lost only three other games in regulation time, in front of 17,496 fans who screamed and implored the Sharks to get the one win the home team needed to set a franchise record with 52.
But in stepped Getzlaf to set up his left wing, Bobby Ryan, for two goals that ran the rookie’s total to 30 and broke the record of 29 that Dustin Penner had set in 2006-07.
Getzlaf also set up his right wing, Corey Perry. And for fun he set up Teemu Selanne during a four-on-four situation late in the second period.
“I’m just not a big stats guy. I just want to play,” Getzlaf said.
Thanks to Getzlaf, the Ducks -- who couldn’t buy goals most of this season, have scored 29 in their last six games. In each of the last two games they had only one power play and capitalized on each.
“Yeah, he’s OK,” Ryan said of Getzlaf. “He brings so much to the ice and he’s able to draw a little attention away from myself and [Perry]. He’s setting guys up for goals and he brings leadership qualities.”
The Ducks got off to a strong start and built a 2-0 lead on their first four shots against Evgeni Nabokov.
Defenseman James Wisniewski made the first goal possible with a long shot that was tipped by Perry on the way to the net. Nabokov stopped it, but Getzlaf dug out the rebound behind the net and slipped a no-look pass to where he knew Ryan would be. Ryan flicked it past Nabokov at 2:47.
“It was the two eyes in the back of his head that found me,” Ryan said.
Perry made it 2-0 at 5:46 with his 30th goal of the season, taking a pass from Getzlaf and unleashing a 40-foot shot that skipped through Nabokov’s pads.
The Sharks cut their deficit to 2-1 at 9:35. Dan Boyle lost the puck on a poke check by Ryan Whitney, only to see it land on Joe Thornton’s stick. Thornton’s long shot got past Jonas Hiller on the goalie’s stick side.
Whitney, who never played much defense in Pittsburgh and is still learning how to put some grit into that end of his game, was sent off for interference at 3:02 of the second period. At 4:07 Milan Michalek lifted a 25-foot wrist shot over Jonas Hiller’s glove.
A brief lapse by the Sharks led to the Ducks’ third goal. Center Thomas Plihal lost the puck behind his net, giving Erik Christensen a chance to pounce on it. He did, and made a quick feed into the slot. Mike Brown was there for a 20-foot shot that appeared to bounce before it reached the net and eluded Nabokov at 8:07 to put the Ducks ahead again, at 3-2.
Selanne’s 26th goal gave the Ducks a 4-2 lead. The teams were playing four on four when Getzlaf stole the puck from Jonathan Cheechoo at the Ducks’ blue line and carried it up the left side, with Selanne dashing up the right side. As a right-handed shooter Getzlaf had to go to his backhand to pass to Selanne, and he made a perfectly timed feed that Selanne lifted over Nabokov at 17:39 to give the Ducks a 4-2 lead.
Although the Sharks occasionally pressured the Ducks into scrambling around their defensive zone, Hiller (28 saves) held firm. And he got a comfortable cushion when Getzlaf earned his fourth assist at 13:14 of the third period while the Ducks were enjoying their only power play of the game.
Getzlaf fed Christensen to create a two-on-one with Ryan, with Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray back. Nabokov moved to his right, but Christensen passed to Ryan who had almost the whole net to deposit his 30th goal.
Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said you can learn a lot about a team while it’s on the road during a playoff drive. He learned a few things that pleased him.
“They feel good about themselves and they like the way the team is playing together,” he said. “I think they like one another. I think they support one another. And I think they’re having fun.”
Despite that tyrant of a coach?
“Despite that tyrant of a coach,” he said, laughing. “You can quote me.”
Consider him quoted.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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