ANAHEIM - The raucous (if not premature) chants from the Ducks faithful of "You can't win here" started early tonight at Honda Center, and their Ducks went on to prove that bold statement justifiable once more.
A lengthy string of home dominance over the Calgary Flames again carried into the postseason, as the Ducks came back to douse the Flames in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round series. Anaheim's regular season streak at home over the Flames is well-documented, but tonight marked the sixth Anaheim home win in seven postseason contests between the two at Honda Center (three series dating back to 2006).
"We talk about home ice and battling for it, but it's only home ice if you use it," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who had the game's first goal and an assist in an outstanding Game 1 performance. "We got our win tonight and we're going to move on to the next one."
Head coach Randy Carlyle said Getzlaf's performance was, "An example of our guy making a difference. I wouldn't normally use him on a 5-on-3 [penalty kill] in the regular season. When you're playing in the playoffs, you ask those players to elevate their game because there is so much on the line."
Anaheim trailed tonight at the halfway point of the second but scored twice in that period and leaned heavily on goalie John Gibson down the stretch in a gritty 3-2 victory in front of an orange-clad, towel-waving capacity crowd.
Calgary put the pressure on late, thanks in part to consecutive Ducks penalties, followed by the Flames sending goalie Brian Elliott to the bench for a 6-on-4 in the final moments. But Gibson (30 saves) made a couple of huge stops during some hectic moments in front of the Anaheim net -- including a gargantuan pad save on Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau -- and the Ducks hung on by the skin of their collective teeth.
"I don't think it was my best, but as the game went on I felt better," Gibson said. "Guys did a really good job in front of me clearing the rebounds out. When I left pucks around, they did a really good job clearing it out."
With seconds winding down and the puck bouncing in the Anaheim end, Ryan Kesler covered it with his lower body while down on the ice, taking a beating from several Flames before finally being called for a delay of game. But by that time there was 0.9 seconds left on the clock and the ensuing faceoff produced nothing.
"We got tested tonight, that's for sure," Getzlaf said. "When you're taking late penalties and the 5-on-3 late, we did a good job keeping our focus and working through it as opposed to working against it."
A boisterous Honda Center crowd from the outset got even louder when the Ducks scored the series' first goal just 52 seconds into Game 1 on the power play. Getzlaf hammered a one-timer from just above the left wing circle and it darted under the crossbar. Soon afterward, the taunting chants rose from the sellout crowd.
Video: CGY@ANA, Gm1: Getzlaf rips PPG in game's first minute
Calgary quited the crowd on a power play of its own later in the period, on a pretty tap-in by Sean Monahan off a Kris Versteeg feed to the goal mouth.
A shaky start to the second period finally ended up biting the Ducks at the midway point, as Matt Stajan whipped a backhand on net and Sam Bennett redirected it from just outside the crease.
"There was a little period in the second period where they had some momentum," said Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, "but we got through that pretty well."
Anaheim got even with 6:07 left in the period on the rush, as Getzlaf was left all alone on left wing, shooting the puck hard off Elliott's leg pad and allowing Rickard Rakell to punch in the rebound. Getzlaf was the beneficiary of a beautiful stretch pass by Bieksa from deep in the Anaheim end, not to mention a Calgary defensive breakdown.
Video: CGY@ANA, Gm1: Rakell finishes a rebound in front
The Ducks took advantage of back-to-back penalties late in the period to take the lead for good when Jakob Silfverberg sniped a shot from the left wing that got through Elliott.
Video: CGY@ANA, Gm1: Silfverberg wires in wrister for PPG
That held up for the entire third period thanks to Gibson and some stifling Ducks defense, as Anaheim blocked 20 shots and won 63 percent of the faceoffs in the game.
"As far as the game within the game, the scrums and all that stuff after the whistle, we were on the right end of it," Bieksa said. "It's one thing to be the guy knocking guys over in scrums, but at the end of the day, you'd rather be the guy getting the power play. We did a good job of absorbing punishment and drawing penalties."
These two teams are back at it Saturday night for Game 2 at Honda Center, a game in which Getzlaf said, "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."