BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Emerson Etem long ago made up with this working-class city after some critical words were uttered when he was a junior player. But his breakout night for the Ducks on Saturday will leave a different sting with beaten-down Buffalo Sabres fans.
Etem got the first two-goal game of his brief NHL career and Corey Perry added two goals to help the Ducks shake off a slow start and roll up the sad-sack Sabres, 6-3, at First Niagara Center.
It was nearly three years ago while playing for Team USA in the world junior championships that Etem called Buffalo a "ghost town" and "the worst city ever" through his Twitter account.
The young winger quickly regretted those comments and made his peace. His damage Saturday was on the scoreboard, potting goals in the second and third periods as part of five consecutive by the Ducks (11-3-1), who are 4-2-1 on this trip.
"I made my apologies," Etem said. "I'm just not going to talk about it. It's a good feeling to get the win. We knew we couldn't take these guys lightly."
The Ducks spotted the NHL's worst team an early second-period lead on Cody Hodgson's power-play goal before getting serious. Ryan Getzlaf triggered the deluge, and Sami Vatanen and Etem followed by scoring 34 seconds apart.
"It took us about a period," Getzlaf said. "It's a frustrating concept. It's something to be expected in some terms when you're on a (15)-day road trip. It's hard to get up for them all.
"I'm happy with our effort after that first period, getting back in the hockey game and displaying that will to win."
Perry and Etem blew the game open with goals 39 seconds apart, and then Perry squelched a minor Buffalo comeback with a breakaway goal. Jonas Hiller only needed to make 14 saves.
The Ducks went all in late trying to get Etem his first hat trick but that will have to wait.
"First and foremost, it's a big win," Etem said. "When you've had a little support from your teammates trying to get you that third one, it's just nice to see. Great group of guys, great teammates and that showed."
East Coast bias
Born and raised in New England and a collegian in the Ivy League, Ben Lovejoy did not have much of an appreciation for the hockey teams located on the left side of the country.
His mindset continued during his seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It has taken his time with the Ducks to see what is and has been patently clear in recent years.
When it comes to NHL supremacy, the Western Conference is the better one. And it isn't even up for debate. Consider that those teams had a 55-26-9 advantage in games against Eastern Conference squads going into Saturday night.
"I've suffered from East Coast bias my entire life," Lovejoy said. "Both while I've been an NHL player and as a kid growing up. I've never given the respect to the West that it so clearly deserves until I've played here.
"This is crazy. Both our division and the other division. We have had a very good start but we have yet to play the big boys in the West, and we will need to step up our game even further judging by the records."
The Ducks don't have to look far to see the dominance. Their 11-3-1 record is nice, but it doesn't stand out in a Pacific Division that has San Jose, Phoenix, Vancouver and the Kings all looking like contenders.
Add in hot starts by surprising Colorado, defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago and potential Cup contender St. Louis and it's a conference that will be ultra-competitive when the teams face each other.
"We look at it as we know it's an absolute dogfight from Day 1 to Game 82 on who makes the playoffs," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The must-win situation is there every game.
"It's not just waiting until after Christmas and saying, 'OK, we've got to do this or whatever. L.A.'s not losing. Phoenix isn't losing. San Jose's not losing. Vancouver's not losing. And there's only so much room up there to make the playoffs."
Boudreau admitted when he coached Washington, he also suffered from Eastern bias. The overwhelming evidence of Western dominance has thrown him for a loop.
"I'm just surprised," he said. "You look on paper, all the teams seem equal. When I was in the East, I thought the East was better. It's been surprising the way the games have gone as far as the number of wins to losses. There's a lot of good teams in the East."
The Ducks edged Phoenix before their trip and defeated Minnesota but were routed by Colorado on opening night. They'll get Phoenix again and Vancouver when they get back home and then have more Western tests later this month.
Defenseman Sami Vatanen scored his first goal of the season against Buffalo but then didn't return for the third period because of what Boudreau said was an upper-body injury. Vatanen is day-to-day and questionable for Monday against the New York Rangers. ...
Luca Sbisa played his second game for Norfolk (AHL) and had an assist for the second straight night in a 4-3 shootout loss to Bridgeport. Sbisa, who's coming back from a badly sprained ankle, is expected to return to the Ducks on Monday.
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