Jonas Hiller coolly stopped every puck like a seasoned playoff veteran and Anaheim's penalty killers also enjoyed a flawless evening to give the Ducks a 2-0 victory at San Jose in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Hiller made 35 saves in a sparkling playoff debut for eighth-seeded Anaheim, and Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist in the third period of the win.
After two periods of the tight-checking hockey expected in this meeting between California rivals, Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer scored a power-play goal early in the third on a pass from Getzlaf, who then roared out of the penalty box to score his own goal with 2:25 to play.
"It's sure easier to start with a win," Hiller said. "Now, San Jose almost has to win the next one, so that's some pressure on them, but they're a great team."
Special teams was talked about in length by both teams leading up to the series and it indeed played a large role in Game 1. Anaheim's penalty killers stopped all six San Jose power play attempts while the Ducks capitalized on one-of-four man advantage opportunities.
"There are things we did well, but the game really could have gone either way," Niedermayer said. "(Hiller) stepped up and made a couple of saves, and they hit a couple of posts. They came at us pretty good, but we still felt pretty good about how we played."
Hiller wasn't intimidated by the deafening crowd at HP Pavilion, claiming he's heard similar volume during playoff games with Davos in the Swiss A-League. He thought "the intensity, it's a little higher" in the NHL postseason, but "it's not too bad."
Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves for San Jose in the opener of the first postseason series between two California clubs in four decades. San Jose won the Presidents' Trophy (with 117 points) for the first time in franchise history, but the Sharks realize it counts for nothing in the playoffs - and they looked like the less-experienced club for most of the night at a largely somber Shark Tank.
"We felt like we (controlled) the majority of the play, but that's just hockey," Joe Thornton said. "We've got to keep people in front of the net, keep getting shots, and it'll work for us. ... We've got a good veteran club here, and last year we lost Game 1 against Calgary. We've got to think about this for 5 minutes, and then we'll move on."
Still, the loss puts the Sharks under postseason scrutiny yet again after three straight second-round exits. Their 0-for-6 power play won't stop another round of questions about their mental toughness.
"We didn't create too many second opportunities," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, an assistant on Detroit's Stanley Cup winners last season. "That's their goalie doing a great job around their net, and us doing a poor job. Their goaltender swallowed a lot of pucks. We obviously have to be better in that area."
Despite outshooting the Ducks by a 2-to-1 margin, the Sharks rarely threatened to get any of those chances past Hiller, who claimed the Ducks' starting job during the second half of the regular season. Duck head coach Randy Carlyle stuck with Hiller to start the playoffs instead of going back to Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
"Jonas is more than just a raw rookie," Carlyle said. "He played in some World Championships and the Swiss League, and won championships. ... He's a very calm guy. He doesn't get too high or too low."
Through the first 45 scoreless minutes, the Sharks resembled the squad that coasted to the close of the regular season after clinching the division title a month earlier. San Jose struggled to string together consecutive clean passes, and had difficulty keeping the puck in Anaheim's zone, even during power plays.
Niedermayer, the Ducks' other Conn Smythe winner, had the touch to break open a scoreless game after the Ducks got a man-advantage from a tripping penalty by Jonathan Cheechoo. Getzlaf, the playmaker who had four assists in Anaheim's most recent visit to San Jose (a 5-2 Ducks win on April 4), made a sharp pass to the opposite faceoff circle for a one-timer by Niedermayer, who slipped his low shot past Nabokov with 14:42 left.
Getzlaf committed an elbowing penalty with 4 1/2 minutes to play, but Anaheim's penalty-killers held on. Getzlaf then came straight to mid-ice from the penalty box, accepted a pass from Mike Brown after Marc-Edouard Vlasic's turnover, and ripped a shot past Nabokov.
Notes: The Sharks scratched 43-year-old F Claude Lemieux in favor of enforcer Jody Shelley. Lemieux missed 19 of San Jose's final 21 regular-season games with a jaw injury and as a healthy scratch. Shelley barely touched the ice, and Anaheim enforcer George Parros also played sparingly. ... Giguere has the highest playoff winning percentage among active goalies at 33-17 (.660). ... San Jose lost just five games in regulation at the Shark Tank during the regular season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
|AnaheimDucks.com is the official Web site of the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim Ducks and AnaheimDucks.com are trademarks of Anaheim Ducks Hockey Club, LLC. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Anaheim Ducks Hockey Club, LLC and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.|