ANAHEIM, Calif. – Even in his 22nd NHL season, Teemu Selanne is grateful when he puts his first goal of the year into the back of the net.
“You don’t have to start squeezing your stick extra-hard,” Selanne said. “Usually, not-good things happen after that. It gives you always confidence, no more than that.”
The 43-year-old Finnish Flash’s latest season-opening score also propelled the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
The Ducks are off to the best start in franchise history, even after a performance that didn’t exactly showcase their best hockey.
Selanne scored on a breakaway late in the second period of the Ducks’ fifth straight victory, and Dustin Penner and Kyle Palmieri scored first-period goals. Viktor Fasth made 33 saves for the defending Pacific Division champions, who have won five of their first six games for the first time in the club’s two decades of existence.
Anaheim did it even with a hapless power play and a 17-4 shots disadvantage in the third period. Although the Ducks finished with less than half of their club-record 56 shots from Sunday’s win over Ottawa, Fasth was strong after 10 days off in his tandem with Jonas Hiller.
“I didn’t think we had much flow at all,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When you’re used to seeing what we saw the previous two games, it’s tough to take. Maybe Calgary made us play that way.”
Selanne’s 676th career goal ended up providing the winning margin for the Ducks, who have won 17 consecutive home games against Calgary since Jan. 19, 2004.
Selanne had broken his stick moments earlier, but he skated to the bench for new lumber before sneaking behind the Calgary defence. He received a slick pass from Jakob Silfverberg and beat Joey MacDonald between the legs with a no-nonsense shot.
“I don’t have many tricks, believe me,” said Selanne, who broke two sticks in the game for the first time in his career. “I just try to do things I’m comfortable to do. You don’t have time to think about it.”
Lee Stempniak scored a short-handed goal and Jiri Hudler got credit for a deflected goal early in the third period for Calgary. MacDonald stopped 19 shots for the Flames, who had four days off before opening a five-game trip.
Calgary’s 3-0-2 start was the franchise’s best since the Atlanta Flames went unbeaten in their first 12 games of the 1978-79 season. Calgary has lost 26 of its last 27 road games against Anaheim, its new division rival under NHL realignment.
“We came out and sort of gave them all three goals,” Stempniak said. “I thought we played pretty well, other than a few of those. Against a team like that, you can’t give them too many goals.”
Penner scored just 3:27 in, converting a cross-ice pass from captain Ryan Getzlaf for the second goal of the left wing’s return to Anaheim. Penner has already matched his goal total in 33 games last season with the Los Angeles Kings, although he came up bigger in the playoffs for the Ducks’ rivals.
Palmieri added to Anaheim’s lead with an exceptional effort later in the period, intercepting Chris Butler’s clearing attempt and getting off a wrist shot in the middle of four Flames in the slot for his first goal of the season.
Calgary’s Tim Jackman got a game misconduct for butt-ending Sami Vatanen late in the first period, but the Flames got the only benefit from the five-minute Anaheim power play. Palmieri stumbled when a puck jumped over his stick near the blue line, and Stempniak scored on a clean short-handed breakaway.
The Ducks managed just three shots in those five minutes. Anaheim went scoreless on two power plays, dropping to 1 for 23 for the season—just about the only area where the Ducks are struggling.
“We look like power killers right now,” Selanne said. “I wouldn’t call it a power play. It’s embarrassing. It’s a joke right now. It’s not even funny anymore. No confidence. No shots.”
After Selanne’s goal sent the Ducks into the third period with a two-goal lead, Hudler trimmed the Flames’ deficit when Kris Russell’s shot from the blue line deflected off his body and pinballed past Fasth for his third goal of the season.
“We started to gain momentum late in the second period, and right from the start of the third, we really carried the play,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “We battled back, but we dug ourselves a big hole, and we couldn’t come out of it.”
NOTES: Anaheim D Francois Beauchemin is a plus-11 during the winning streak. … Calgary is playing in every NHL rink in California during its trip. … San Diego State men’s basketball coach Steve Fisher attended the game. The Aztecs will play in the Wooden Legacy tournament this fall, with the final slated for Dec. 1 at Honda Center.