How Ryan Getzlaf made his toughest critic smile.

Registering a goal, an assist, and a fight in the same game — The Gordie Howe Hat Trick — is named, of course, for Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe. That only made it that much easier for us writer-types to point out the irony of Ryan Getzlaf punching his team’s ticket to the Motor City with said feat in the Ducks’ series-clinching win over the Sharks.

Even if the statistics couldn’t do it for us, the comparison between Getzlaf and Mr. Hockey was right there for the taking Monday. His goal was pretty, his fight was gritty, and his assist allowed the Ducks to score an important goal in an otherwise offensively challenged first period.

It brought a proud smile to the face of Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, who could at times be mistaken for the talented center’s toughest critic — if only Getzlaf weren’t harder on himself.

“To me, I don’t know if you noticed, but Ryan Getzlaf had a hell of a game,” Carlyle said.

A few people noticed. Getzlaf was the first Ducks player to be surrounded by a horde of reporters in a loud, exuberant locker room after the game. He could have been bombarded by any number of standard-issue reaction questions. Instead, the focus was on the opening-faceoff fight between him and Sharks center Joe Thornton.

Here was Getzlaf’s explanation:

“It was obviously something that was provoked a little bit last game. He challenged me in the last game, and I didn’t really want to fight at that point when the series was 3-1. I didn’t want to give them any spark. That was my opportunity to redeem myself and Joe wanted to go again to spark his team, so we just decided to go again.It was thought about a little bit before. It was an opportunity to spark our group a little bit after a tough loss against San Jose.That was the idea — we wanted to be in their face. I’m sure Joe thought the same thing.Joe kind of came in and said, do you want to go tonight? I had every intention of asking him.”

Carlyle made it a point to clarify that the fight was anything but staged.

“I’ve never been a coach that’s sent a guy out there to fight,” the coach said. “(Getzlaf) made the decision. I’m glad he did.”

His emotions sufficiently stirred, Getzlaf went out and did something that Carlyle has begged the center to do: Shoot more.

With his team getting doubled up in the shot count, and trailing 1-0, Getzlaf got the Ducks in the game with 7:27 left in the first period by winding up for a shot just inside the blue line. Corey Perry stationed himself down low to screen Evgeni Nabokov and it worked — the puck glanced upward off Nabokov’s leg pad then dangled in midair for a split second, just long enough for Perry to swat a backhand worthy of Roger Federer past the goaltender.

Rob Niedermayer helped Getzlaf complete the trick by digging a puck out along the boards with 2:56 remaining in the third period. The outlet pass found Getzlaf in the high slot, where he faked a slapshot and created a lane for his dangerous wrister, which beat Nabokov stick-side for the game’s final goal.

This entry was posted in Anaheim Ducks/NHL by J.P. Hoornstra. Bookmark the permalink.

About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.

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