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Ducks dominate Sabres with Getzlaf's first hat trick

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- Olympic gold medalist. Stanley Cup champion. A three-time 20-goal scorer and one of the NHL's blessed centers in terms of size and skill. So how could it be that Ryan Getzlaf has gone this long without a hat trick?

The Anaheim Ducks captain needed fewer than 20 minutes to scratch that off his list Friday when his three-goal first-period highlighted a 6-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres.

Getzlaf said teammate Dustin Penner joked with him days ago about who would get a hat trick first, so Getzlaf has bragging rights.

"It's a big ongoing joke," Getzlaf said. "There's a lot of guys on that list that I was a part of. I just got it a shade under decade. Joke's over. Now that joke's on Pens."

NHL-best Anaheim (14-3-1, 29 points) figured to be a tall order for last-place Buffalo, and the Ducks' top line of Getzlaf, Penner and Corey Perry exploited the weary Sabres with a combined four goals and six assists, all in the first 25 minutes.

Penner had a goal and three assists for his first four-point night in nearly four years, and he improved to a remarkable plus-18 on the season. Even rookie Rickard Rakell took a cue from the big boys with a pretty no-look assist for his first NHL point.

The only feel-good moment missing was a goal from Teemu Selanne, who played his 1,400th game and joined Nicklas Lidstrom and Jaromir Jagr as the only European-born players to reach that plateau.

Selanne made his presence felt, though, when he ribbed Getzlaf.

"Teemu said he had 10 [hat tricks] by the time he was this many games in," Getzlaf said. "The encouragement was just rolling around."

But this night belonged to Getzlaf, who achieved the hat trick after 14 career two-goal games -- it took Perry 16 two-goal games before he got his first hat trick. Getzlaf admired Joe Sakic when he was growing up and has always been pass-first, almost to a fault. He said he probably only had two hat tricks in juniors.

"He's had a penchant for passing a little more than he was shooting, so I would think that he's starting to shoot more now and he's getting great results," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Getzlaf completed it when he went to the net and easily backhanded the puck past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller to give Anaheim a 4-1 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the opening period. At that point his three goals and one assist came in 4:56 of ice time.

It was the second time in Anaheim history that a player scored three goals in the first period. Selanne did it on Nov.10, 1997 against the San Jose Sharks.

Getzlaf set the tone 2:11 into the game when he swatted a loose puck through Miller's legs on the power play. Later in the period, a Buffalo rim-around clear took an odd carom off the corner and bounced out to Getzlaf, who rifled it to the upper left corner for his second goal at 16:29.

Miller stopped 72 of 73 shots in his two previous games against Anaheim but was left to fend for himself against waves of Anaheim's forwards, especially the Penner-Getzlaf-Perry line, which looks like it did the first time around in 2007.

"That's exactly how it feels - the way we used to play together and work around each other and work off each other," Getzlaf said. "Pens has done more than enough work to skate the way he is right now and playing with that energy."

Penner found himself alone to backhand in Perry's rebound at 4:53 of the second period, and his four-point night was his first since Dec.11, 2009. Penner, who had 14 points in 33 regular-season games with the Los Angeles Kings last season, has 12 points in 11 games with Anaheim.

Penner's improvement is related to slimming down his 6-foot-4 frame. He admitted he was out of shape in training camp but the work is paying off tremendously. It also helps playing with Getzlaf and Perry.

"From the first practice with them, that was the question I was asking, and it was answered pretty quickly," Penner said. "Maybe I wasn't there where I am now physically, but every game it gets easier, and I'm happier now and happier where we can get to."

Buffalo was without defenseman Christian Ehrhoff because of a lower-body injury sustained Thursday. His replacement, Nikita Zadorov, took a boarding penalty 1:57 into the game that resulted in Getzlaf's first goal.

Buffalo's California trip started with a win against the San Jose Sharks but ended with back-to-back losses to L.A. and Anaheim by a combined score of 8-2.

"It's three [games] in four [nights] and we didn't start the way we needed to," Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said. "We've got to play perfect hockey games, especially against the best team in the League."

The Sabres' latest attempt to shake things up saw Ville Leino a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Mikhail Grigorenko, 19, took full advantage in Leino's spot with two goals - largely with help from the active stick of Cody McCormick.

McCormick won a puck battle with Nick Bonino behind the net and fed Grigorenko for his first goal of the season at 13:26 of the first period, and took the puck in the neutral zone to start the rush that produced Grigorenko's second 13:09 into the second.

Rolston sat his top line of Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis in the third period.

"We've got to work and I didn't feel the work was there," he said of his decision.

Anaheim rookie Frederik Andersen became the first goalie in Ducks history to win his first five NHL games. He made 25 saves. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy was a healthy scratch as Boudreau wanted to mix up his defense and insert Sami Vatanen.

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