The Anaheim Ducks are finding their best form with the playoffs looming, and captain Ryan Getzlaf exemplifies the steady improvement on display.
Getzlaf had a short-handed goal and an assist that set up Rickard Rakell's 30th of the season as the Ducks defeated the St. Louis Blues 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves for his fourth straight win to help Anaheim pass Calgary for second place in the Pacific Division. The Flames' 10-game winning streak ended with a 5-2 loss to Boston.
"Whether you win or lose is kind of irrelevant to us," Getzlaf said. "We want to build something. We want to play well. It's not about the streaks, it's more about the way we're playing and the consistency we can play with."
Getzlaf has been more than consistent coming out of the bye week, compiling 12 points in six games since the mandatory time off.
The way his improvement has spilled over to the rest of the team was evident on the opening goal.
Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was trying to get the puck out of the corner when Getzlaf tipped the pass right to Rakell in the slot. The rising 23-year-old Swede then buried his shot in the top left corner, hitting the 30-goal mark for the first time in his five-year career and putting the Ducks ahead 5:32 into the first period.
Getzlaf then scored on a mesmerizing wrist shot 6:37 into the second that put Anaheim up 2-0. Andrew Cogliano lost control of the puck on the short-handed break before recovering with a drop pass to the waiting Getzlaf.
Getzlaf has 16 of his team-leading 58 points in the last 11 games, and his always-steady two-way game is proving to be infectious in the locker room.
"He's definitely a leader in this room and he has shown it when he plays that way, everyone follows him," Bernier said. "He back-checks hard, he scores some big goals for us. He's a hell of a player, that's for sure."
The veteran is being complemented by the fast-rising Rakell, who has eight goals in his last nine games.
Rakell is tied for fourth in the NHL with 0.51 goals per game and is on pace to join Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry as the only Ducks to average at least .50 per game in a season.
"That's exactly what we expected from Raks," Getzlaf said. "He's been building this the last couple years and really coming into his own and being the elite player we know he is. He's doing a lot of things away from the puck that aren't really noticed and it allows him to get those opportunities."
Ivan Barbashev scored his third career goal and Jake Allen made 20 saves, but the Blues' five-game winning streak was stopped.
Barbashev finally got the puck past Bernier with 9:52 remaining, but the Blues never managed an equalizer.
"We started playing with 10 minutes left in the game," Barbashev said. "That's why we lost. The last 10 minutes was great and we almost got a second goal to tie the game."
St. Louis missed out on its chance to pass Nashville for third place in the Central Division. The Blues still hold the second wild card in the Western Conference, four points ahead of Los Angeles.
"We came out without the intensity that we needed," coach Mike Yeo said. "Collectively we weren't good enough."
NOTES: Ducks G John Gibson missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury. Gibson has been out of action for eight of Anaheim's last nine games. ... Blues RW Dmitrij Jaskin (upper body) did not play. Jaskin was injured in a collision with teammate Robert Bortuzzo on Monday. ... The Ducks have won six of their last seven home games.
Blues: Visit the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.