VANCOUVER -- The Anaheim Ducks eased rookie goaltender John Gibson into the NHL on Monday night.
The Ducks tightened up defensively in front of the 20-year-old, blocking 22 shots and leaving 18 for Gibson to stop in a 3-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Gibson (20 years and 297 days) is the youngest NHL goalie since Buffalo's Darren Puppa (Nov. 1 1985 at Edmonton, 20 years, 223 days) to record a shutout in his NHL debut. The last NHL goaltender of any age to record a shutout in his NHL debut was Al Montoya (24 years and 47 days) of the Phoenix Coyotes on Apr. 1, 2009 at Colorado. Gibson is also the first goalie in a Ducks history to record a shutout in his Anaheim debut.*
*Elias Sports Bureau
"I have to give a lot of credit to the guys," said Gibson. "They played really well in front of me, and made my job easy. I just had to keep the puck out, and make the routine saves."
Daniel Winnik scored the winning goal on a shorthanded breakaway 6:26 into the first period and Anaheim increased its lead atop the Pacific Division, three points ahead of the San Jose Sharks with three games remaining. Anaheim, which matched the franchise record 110 points set in 2006-07, hosts the Sharks at the Honda Center on Wednesday. A victory will clinch the division for Anaheim.
"On paper, it sounds really good. But the fact we play San Jose the next game, L.A. the next game after that, and Colorado, it’s not going to be an easy thing," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "We’ve got to play a lot like we played tonight if we want to have success on Wednesday and beyond."
Eddie Lack stopped 20 of 23 shots in his 19th straight start for the Canucks, who were eliminated from qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vancouver remained six points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild-card spot; the Canucks have three games left and the Stars have the tiebreaker.
Gibson, a highly-touted prospect in his first pro season, got the start after No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller struggled again in a 4-2 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, and backup Frederik Andersen was injured by a shot off his mask on Friday. Gibson wasn't tested often until the Ducks were up 3-0, but made a great right pad save to take a sure backdoor goal away from fellow rookie Nicklas Jensen with seven minutes left, and stuffed Jensen in tight on a power-play rush around the defense a couple of minutes later.
Needing at least a point to keep their slim postseason hopes alive, the Canucks coughed up a breakaway to Andrew Cogliano 15 seconds into the game. Lack stopped that, but was beaten after another turnover at the Vancouver blue line by captain Henrik Sedin on a power play six minutes later. Winnik stole the puck and skated in alone and fired a quick wrist shot over Lack's blocker.
Despite playing the night before, Anaheim outshot the Canucks 23-18, improving to 10-1-2 in the second half of back-to-back games this season. That includes two wins in Vancouver in the past nine days for the Ducks, who won all five games against the Canucks this season.
Any hopes of a Vancouver rally ended early in the third period.
Lack again stopped Cogliano on a breakaway (it was actually a 2-on-0 with a Ducks player trailing) 30 seconds into the period, but Beleskey finished some nice passing from Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry off the rush to make it 3-0 less than a minute later.
Gibson, who won a World Junior Championship gold medal and World Championship bronze with the United States last season, only faced three shots in the second period. The Canucks failed to get a shot on consecutive 2-on-1 breaks late in the second period, and Palmieri doubled the Ducks lead a short while later, deflecting Ben Lovejoy's point shot through Lack from atop the crease.
"I just enjoyed it," said Gibson, on the day as a whole. "It’s been a great day. It’s a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life, so I wanted to enjoy it."