CALGARY - Back in the building where he played four years of junior hockey, Ryan Getzlaf treated the sell-out crowd of 19,289 to a stroll down memory lane.
Continuing his red-hot play of late, Getzlaf set up two goals, including the game-winner, in leading the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday. In setting up Chris Kunitz's game-winner with 41 seconds left in the first period, Getzlaf showcased the playmaking ability that made him a fan favourite while with the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen.
The third-year Ducks centre carried the puck into the Flames zone, made a slick fake that turned defenceman Dion Phaneuf inside out and then slid the puck across to Kunitz left uncovered in the slot for an easy tap-in.
With Getzlaf having slipped away to visit with friends and family, his teammates and coach were left to do the talking.
"I just went to the front of the net and he made a nice backhand pass and I had a wide-open net," said Kunitz. (Getzlaf) has world class hands, a great shot, he's big, and he's physical. We call him the franchise because that's what he is, he goes out there and plays with his heart on his sleeve."
Getzlaf has points in nine of the past 10 games, amassing six goals and eight assists over that span.
"He's an elite level player," said Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle. "Not too many people can carry the puck into the offensive zone and make those kinds of moves. He's a special player."
Todd Marchant, Corey Perry, and Rob Niedermayer also scored for Anaheim (12-10-4). The Ducks have picked up points in 11 of their last 14 games (8-3-3).
The win moves Anaheim two points up on San Jose and within two points of the first-place Dallas Stars in the tight Pacific Division.
Alex Tanguay replied with the lone goal for Calgary (10-13-3), which has lost four of its last five games.
Getzlaf, 22, signed a US$26.5-million, five-year contract extension earlier in the month.
"He obviously has a lot bigger role on our team now," said veteran defenceman Chris Pronger. "Since he got the contract situation settled, and he handled himself very well through that whole process, he's really taken off and you're just seeing the talent that he's got right now, he's a tremendous player."
After giving up Tanguay's goal on the second shot of the game, former Flames goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere buckled down and was unbeatable the rest of the night. He finished with 38 saves.
The only NHL team to win 30 games at home last year, Calgary is just 6-7-2 at the Pengrowth Saddledome this year and as the game ended, they were booed off the ice by the sellout crowd of 19,289.
"It's a critical time for us, we're three games under .500, we're playing teams that we have to catch to make the playoffs," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "We have to find ways to win and we have to do it now and get ourselves back in this playoff hunt. It's time."
Iginla played in his 804th career game, moving him past Hall of Fame defenceman Al MacInnis into first place on the Flames all-time list. Iginla ranks second in goals (337), fourth in assists (361) and third in points (698).
Calgary's early lead was short-lived as Anaheim tied it at 5:53 when Marchant was set up from behind the net by Todd Bertuzzi.
The Flames had numerous chances to get back in the game on the power play, but after converting on their first attempt, Calgary was blanked on five subsequent chances over the final 40 minutes.
"Overall, they worked fairly hard," Flames coach Mike Keenan said of his team's effort. "They had some soft spots at some crucial moments but for the most part, they had energy, they battled, but just didn't get results."
Desperate to generate some offence, Keenan pulled Kiprusoff with more than four minutes left to give the Flames, who were already on a power play, a two-man advantage.
The move backfired when Niedermayer whipped the puck the length of the ice for an empty-net goal.
Notes: Calgary is just 3-for-35 with the extra man in the past eight games. ... Calgary D Adrian Aucoin (shoulder) did not play. The Flames called up 23-year-old Tim Ramholt from Quad City of the AHL to take his place. The 2003 second-round draft pick from made his NHL debut. ... Calgary C Stephane Yelle (groin) also did not play.