Ryan Getzlaf grabbed the three pucks wrapped in tape and held them up to his chest in the Anaheim Ducks’ dressing room for a celebration nine seasons in the making.
"About time, eh?" he said. "I’ve been waiting for this one for a while."
Anaheim’s consummate playmaker finally had a hat trick of his own in the latest overwhelming victory for the league-leading Ducks.
Getzlaf had three goals and an assist in the first period, linemate Dustin Penner also scored four points, and the Ducks remained the NHL’s only unbeaten home team with a 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
Getzlaf nearly didn’t play after taking a tumble in the morning skate. Instead, he got his first career hat trick before the first intermission as the league-leading Ducks (14-3-1) trounced the league-worst Sabres (3-15-1) for their seventh win in eight games overall.
While improving to 7-0 at home, the Ducks got a landmark performance from their captain, who usually makes his living setting up longtime teammate Corey Perry for the bulk of the former Richard Trophy winner’s goals. With big assists from Penner and Perry, Getzlaf finally got his first hat trick in his 574th regular-season game.
"They were really dominant tonight," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said of his top line. "There was no doubt. You could tell, as soon as he started his skating, that Ryan was great. When we got the power-play goal early, it was because he did something he doesn’t normally do, which is jump right into the play after a shot. As soon as he did that, I said `OK, he’s going to have a good game.’"
The veteran center tied the franchise record for points in a period while picking up just the second first-period hat trick in Ducks history. Teemu Selanne also did it in November 1997.
"That’s why he’s got the `C,’" said Penner, who had three first-period assists and a second-period goal in his first four-point game since December 2009. "He shows what a great leader he is by getting timely goals."
Getzlaf finished the first period with nine points in his last nine periods, including three multipoint performances in Anaheim’s last four outings to move up to second place among the league’s overall scoring leaders. He has 13 points in the Ducks’ last eight games while playing with Perry and Penner, reassembling their line from the Ducks’ Stanley Cup-winning team in 2007.
"The way we used to play together and work around each other, it feels like it’s the same," Getzlaf said.
Frederik Andersen made 25 saves and improved to 5-0 in his NHL career as Anaheim won its seventh straight at Honda Center. Cam Fowler also scored in the first period for the Ducks, and Richard Rakell earned his first NHL point on a slick backhand assist for Andrew Cogliano’s second-period goal.
Mikhail Grigorenko scored his first two goals of the season for the Sabres, who finished their three-game California road swing with back-to-back losses. Ryan Miller stopped 28 shots in the first two periods while dropping to 2-11.
"It was a disaster to be part of," Miller said. "I’ve been a part of many disasters in my career. You just have to turn the page and move on."
The Sabres struggled defensively without key defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who sat out with a lower-body injury. Jhonas Enroth replaced Miller in the third period for the Sabres, who have lost six of seven overall. Anaheim also won 6-3 in Buffalo last Saturday.
"They’re a great team, (but) that line especially is the top one in the NHL," Buffalo center Cody Hodgson said. "We didn’t have a good start, and they capitalized on it. It’s not the ending you want to a road trip, but we had a good win against the Sharks, and we’ll take that from it. But there were not a lot of positives to build off of from this game."
The Ducks were sizzling in their second game since returning from an eight-game East Coast trip. Anaheim is off to the best home start in the franchise’s two decades of existence, outscoring its opponents 33-12.
The Ducks scored just four power play goals in their first 16 games this season, dropping to last overall in the NHL, before scoring four more in a 35-minute stretch that began Wednesday against Phoenix and extended into the lopsided first period against Buffalo.
After Getzlaf batted home a rebound in the slot just 2:11 in, Fowler scored Anaheim’s second power-play goal midway through the period. Grigorenko answered with a goal on a nifty behind-the-net pass from Cody McCormick, but Getzlaf jumped on a Buffalo turnover and fired a wrist shot for an unassisted goal.
Getzlaf completed the hat trick with 20 seconds left in the period, scoring on a backhand all alone in front after a pass from Perry. The traditional hat shower from the Anaheim crowd only began gradually, with many fans stunned by Getzlaf’s feat.
NOTES: Ehrhoff was hurt in the third period Thursday night in Los Angeles. LW Ville Leino was a healthy scratch. … Selanne played in his 1,400th NHL game. The 43-year-old Finnish Flash is just the third European player to reach the mark, joining Nicklas Lidstrom and Jaromir Jagr. … The Ducks are 10-0-1 when Penner is in the lineup. … Ducks C Saku Koivu (upper body) and F Jakob Silfverberg (broken right hand) sat out their seventh straight games. G Viktor Fasth missed his 12th straight game with a lower-body injury, but could return to practice soon.