By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – In a game they played without four of their best players, the one the Anaheim Ducks might have missed the least was goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
|Hiller was exceptional in net, saving 31 of 32 shots in regulation and overtime and five of six shootout attempts.
That’s because in his place, Swiss rookie Jonas Hiller was outstanding yet again, saving 31 of 32 Los Angeles shots and stopping five of six shootout attempts as the Ducks pulled out a dramatic 2-1 win over the rival Kings at Honda Center.
The win came with plenty of bonuses for Anaheim, which clinched a postseason berth for the third straight year, won the inaugural Freeway Face-Off rivalry series over the Kings and captured its 10th straight win at home, best in the NHL this year. The Ducks also tied their franchise record with their 26th home win, matching the mark set each of the past two seasons.
"It’s great that we’re in the playoffs," the 26-year-old Hiller said. "It was a tough game. During the game, you probably don’t think about it too much. You just try to do your job. I think everybody did pretty well on our team tonight."
Hiller was nearly unbeatable in making his third straight start in place of Giguere, who was out with back spasms. Among Hiller's 31 stops were several acrobatic ones, the most electrifying coming with seconds remaining in the third period and the game tied 1-1. After Mathieu Schneider turned the puck over at the blue line, Alexander Frolov was off and running on a breakaway with no one to beat but Hiller. Frolov made a pretty redirection move to fool Hiller, but somehow he managed to kick out his skate and stop the puck, earning a loud roar from the standing room only crowd.
"I think you don’t have time to think about anything at that time," Hiller said about the save. "It’s a breakaway. It doesn’t really depend when he comes, the first minute or the last minute, you just try to focus and do what you always try to do and stop the puck. I was happy that I did."
Schneider called it, "an unbelievable save. It was one of the best saves I’ve seen in a long time. He was on tonight, that’s for sure, even in the shootout. They had to make a great move to beat him. He seemed for the most part unbeatable. He’s been the difference for us lately."
Hiller's performance enabled the Ducks to prevail with a Teemu Selanne goal in the third round of the shootout (keeping Anaheim alive after Dustin Brown connected right before it) and a game-winning Schneider wrist shot on the second-to-last attempt. Hiller made a relatively easy save off the chest on a Brian Willsie wrister on the final attempt to seal the first shootout win of his young career.
Soon after being rushed by his Ducks teammates, Hiller was asked by a TV reporter if that was what it felt like to be “in the zone.”
“Yeah,” the shy Hiller said. “I think so.”
Hiller has given up just four goals in those three starts since Giguere went down, earning two wins.
Along with Giguere, the Ducks were without three of their four All-Stars, with Chris Pronger serving the fifth game of an eight-game suspension, Corey Perry recovering from a torn right quad tendon and Ryan Getzlaf missing his second straight game with an upper body ailment.
The Ducks appeared to miss those four players early, as they looked sluggish over the first period and a half. Los Angeles got first blood midway through the opening period, when Derek Armstrong tapped a rebound in front to Patrick O’Sullivan, who roofed it on the near side.
|Schneider won it with this successful shootout attempt in the top of the sixth round.
Anaheim couldn’t find the equalizer the remainder of the period, but finally got it on a Bobby Ryan power play goal with 7:35 left in the second following a Raitis Ivanans minor for holding the stick. Ryan dragged the puck up the left wing before cutting to the slot and slinging a wrist shot underneath the top left corner of the net. It was the first point for Ryan since his last call-up on March 7 (six games).
The Ducks had a chance to take the lead on a couple of occasions midway through the third to no avail. A Francois Beauchemin attempt off a rebound bounced high off Kings goalie Erik Ersberg and dropped to the ice about an inch from the stripe before being swept away by Anze Kopitar.
Two minutes later, Selanne made a nice feed to a streaking Todd Marchant in the slot, but Marchant’s one-timer was beautifully blocked by Ersberg.
The Swedish Ersberg, like Hiller a 26-year-old rookie, was tough in his own right, stopping 39 of 40 Ducks shots and continuing a run that saw him post a .929 save percentage (coming into tonight) since being called up last month.
With the win in the Freeway Face-Off, the Ducks earned a $50,000 donation from the Kings to Ducks Care.
"The three years that I’ve been here, some of the toughest games that we’ve played have been against the Kings," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "They work hard, stay with their structure. They play us very, very difficult. There’s a lot of physical and exciting hockey that’s been played between the two hockey clubs. This one clinches the Freeway Face-Off Series. There’s a 50,000 dollar stipend going to charity, so there’s a winner here tonight."
The Ducks, who climbed within four points of San Jose in a last-ditch effort to catch the Pacific Division leaders, get the Sharks at Honda Center on Friday night. Anaheim put four points between themselves and current fifth-place holder Calgary, as the Ducks look to at least hold that spot and earn home ice in the first round of the postseason.
"It was nice to clinch a spot tonight and it’s nice to be at home," Schneider said. "The comfort of knowing that we’re home basically for the rest of the season going into the playoffs I think gives us a little bit of peace of mind and a chance to really get our bodies ready."
Tonight’s win improved Anaheim’s home record to 26-8-4, tying the franchise record for most home wins in a single season. The team record of 26 home wins was established during the 2005-06 season (26-10-5) and matched in the 2006-07 campaign (26-6-9).
With tonight’s win, the Ducks extended their franchise-record winning streak at home to 10 games. It’s the longest home winning streak since the 2006-07 season when the Calgary Flames won 10 straight games at home from Nov. 7-Dec. 12, 2006.
Ducks Longest Home Winning Streaks
10 games (Feb. 17-present)
7 games (Dec. 19, 2007-Jan. 15, 2008)
7 games (Mar. 7-Apr. 4, 2006)
6 games (Feb. 25-Mar. 11, 2007)
6 games (Dec. 1-12, 2002)
During the Ducks 10-game home win streak, they have outscored their opposition 35-15. The club has scored three-or-more goals in eight of the 10 contests and allowed two-or-fewer goals in nine of the 10 games. Over the last six games during the win streak, the Ducks have outscored their opposition 20-7, allowing exactly one goal in five of the six contests.
Anaheim has won six of its last seven games (6-1-0) and 12 of its last 16 games (12-3-1). The club is also 17-2-1 in their last 20 games at Honda Center.
With tonight’s shootout win, the Ducks improved their shootout record to 6-7. Jonas Hiller won his first career shootout victory.
The Ducks have allowed only five power play goals in the last nine games, going 37-for-42 overall (88.1%).
Jonas Hiller has won five of his last seven starts (5-2-0), posting a 1.42 GAA (10 GA/423 MIN) and a .957 SV% (224-of-234). He has given up two-goals-or-less in six of those games. In his last 10 starts, Hiller has posted a 1.59 GAA (16 GA/603 MIN) and a .948 SV% (291-of-307).
Mathieu Schneider scored the second shootout goal of his career (both game-deciding).
Anaheim continues its franchise-record sellout streak at Honda Center, recording their 71st straight sellout (17,331, including standing room) this evening. In addition, it marks the 59th consecutive sellout in the regular season, also a franchise record.
LAK Brian Willsie's attempt is NO GOOD, as his wrist shot from straightaway is saved by Hiller! The Ducks win in the shootout, 2-1, qualifying for the postseason and clinching the Freeway Face-Off series.
ANA Mathieu Schneider's attempt is A GOAL as he fires a wrist shot off Ersberg and just inside the right post.
LAK Alexander Frolov's attempt is NO GOOD as his attempt to make a move to the backhand slips off his stick and Hiller stops it.
ANA Doug Weight's attempt is NO GOOD, as his backhand attempt is easily saved by Ersberg.
LAK Michael Cammalleri's attempt is NO GOOD, as he tries a wrist shot that hits off the post.
ANA Chris Kunitz's attempt is NO GOOD, as he makes a nice fake, but the shot is kicked away by Ersberg before Kunitz can make it.
LAK Patrick O'Sullivan's attempt is NO GOOD, as it flies wide of the net and off the glass.
ANA Teemu Selanne's attempt is A GOAL, as he slips a wrist shot five hole.
LAK Dustin Brown's attempt is A GOAL, as he fakes a shot and roofs it over a diving Hiller.
ANA Bobby Ryan
's attempt is NO GOOD, as he makes a pretty deke and Ersberg just does make the glove save.
LAK Anze Kopitar's attempt is NO GOOD, easily stopped by Hiller's chest as Kopitar tried a deke move.
ANA Todd Bertuzzi's attempt is NO GOOD, backhanded off the right post.
5:00 - END OF OVERTIME - Both the Ducks and Kings work their tails off in the OT, but neither finds the net. We're going to a shootout.
4:43 - Hiller does it again, making a diving save on a Cammalleri one-time try. Unbelievable game for the kid.
4:11 - Kunitz gets in deep, but his shot is thwarted.
3:28 - Hiller makes another nice stop on a wide-open Visnosky, who got in deep, sending Selanne down right wing on a rush. He fakes a shot, then tries to slip a quick wrister in there, but Ersberg pounces.
2:56 - Preissing has some room to take a shot from the circle and Hiller dramatically snatches it out of the air with the leather.
0:00 - We're underway in OT.
20:00 - END OF REGULATION - Hiller nearly single-handedly saves the Ducks in the closing seconds and we're going to overtime. The Ducks earn a standings points, meaning they have officially qualified for the postseason for the third straight year.
19:44 - After Schneider turns it over at the blue line, Frolov is off and running on a breakaway. He makes a beautiful move to fool Hiller, but Hiller somehow throws out his skate and stops the puck, then holds it under his leg pad to freeze it. Absolutely ridiculous save and the crowd goes nuts.
19:00 - O'Sullivan nearly gets a lucky one on a quick shot from the corner, but Hiller makes a heads-up play to kick it away.
17:40 - A Pahlsson centering pass is intercepted, but pops off a couple of Kings and nearly goes in the net. Wow.
15:33 - Kunitz gets off a wrister from the slot that clangs off red metal.
15:28 - Weight waits and makes a nice feed to Bertuzzi in the slot, but his snap shot off one foot is caught by Ersberg. Where is Jason LaBarbera or Dan Cloutier when you need them? It's the 35th shot on goal for Anaheim.
13:58 - ANA Penalty - Teemu Selanne
, 2 min. diving and and LAK Penalty - Dustin Brown, 2 min. hooking. Brown wraps his stick around Selanne and spins him to the ice, yet the officials decides that Selanne oversold it. Absolutely atrocious call and the fans let them know it.
10:20 - Selanne has room to make a centering pass to Marchant in the slot after Kevin Dallman falls to the ice, but Marchant's seemingly easy one-timer is bravely stopped by Ersberg. Tremendous save by the Swedish rookie, who is getting it done tonight.
8:10 - Pahlsson's shot is saved by Ersberg and the rebound goes to Beauchemin, whose putback attempt pops off the goalie and straight in the air, coming down inches short of the goal line. . Moen tries to get at it, but he's shoved awayt by Willsie before the puck is swept away by Kopitar. Unbelievably close for Anaheim.
6:14 - LAK Penalty - Raitis Ivanans, 2 min. holding. Another chance for the Ducks.
5:05 - Bertuzzi forces his way around the back of the net and puts a backhand on net, but Ersberg is there.
2:00 - Kunitz spins and puts a shot from an impossible angle on net and it hits Ersberg and nearly pops in.
0:30 - Bertuzzi feeds Selanne streaking toward the crease, but Ersberg nicely steps out to knock it away.
0:00 - Here we go in the third. Should be a good one.
The What Would You Do for a Honda Ridgeline video contest comes on at intermission. The first one is a group of soldiers doing some sort of military chant for the Ducks. The only bright side of it was a shot of all of them taking their shirts off, with the long female soldier revealing a red bra. That was blown out of the water by video No. 2, a professionally produced spoof of "The Office" (which included a shot of a Ducks Digest on desk), ending with the Michael Scott-based character jumping off the top of the office roof into a kiddie pool. Very well done, and it wins in a landslide vote of fan response.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - The Ducks get the equalizer on a long-awaited goal from Bobby Ryan
and we're tied 1-1. Anaheim, despite looking less-than-stellar for much of the period, gains the edge in shots, 21-19.
19:57 - Dustin Brown falls to the ice near Bertuzzi and then puts his stick out to blatantly trip Bertuzzi. It's an obvious tripping penalty, which doesn't explain why the officials didn't call it. Nice work, boys.
19:44 - Weight makes a nice feed to Scott Niedermayer flashing into the slot, and his redirect try is saved.
19:07 - Patrick O'Sullivan heads the other way shorthanded and launches a slap shot that Hiller makes a nice stop on.
17:36 - LAK Penalty - Lubomir Visnovsky
, 2 min. interference and 10 min. misconduct. Not sure what the misconduct was for. I'm open to emails from any viewers who know.
17:36 - Bobby Ryan
goes to the bench shaking off a sore hand. He got hit by a stick, knocking off his glove, but still made that pass.
17:35 - Ryan makes a nice feed to a pinching Sean O'Donnell, but O'Donnell whiffs on the one-timer and Ersberg pounces on it.
A faithful reader named Kristen has sent me this photo she took of a guy here at tonight's game. Dude, you've got to be kidding me. Absolutely unacceptable.
12:25 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - BOBBY RYAN - Ryan heads down the left wing and then cuts to the slot in front of Preissing. Once he gets to the middle of the ice, he slings a wrist shot that connects just under the left corner of the net. It's the first point since Ryan's last call-up, on March 7 (six games). We're tied 1-1. We'll see what this does to the energy level of the men in black and this crowd.
11:06 - Selanne makes a feed to Scotty in the slot, but he barely gets the stick on the one-timer and it's kick-saved and held by Ersberg.
10:33 - LAK Penalty - Raitis Ivanans, 2 min. holding the stick. An opportunity for Anaheim to go on a power play that Christine Nubla told Sean O'Donnell was "mediocre at best" during the intermission.
There is a decided difference in energy between the two teams so far, and the edge ironically does not belong to the team in the playoff race right now.
8:20 - Bobby Ryan
does some slick skating into the attacking zone and gets off a shot that flies wide.
Time for the Ducks Trivia Challenge.:Which NHL team did the Ducks acquire J.S. Aubin from? Are you kidding me? They don't even give the guy choices before he blurts out Los Angeles KIngs. Too easy. And no bonus question.
4:44 - Kopitar does a little dancing behind the net, eluding Pahlsson, before making a pass for a point one-timer that Hiller corrals.
3:10 - Bergeron pinches in and tries a one-timer, but Ersberg makes a nice stop up high.
1:51 - LAK Penalty - Jon Klemm, 2 min. hooking. Klemm wraps the stick around Selanne on the rush.
1:03 - Bertuzzi comes from behind the net and tries a backhand wraparound, but it gets caught under Ersberg as he falls on it.
0:00 - We're rollin' in the second.
Reader Alisa has sent me an email explaining Troy Polamalu's presence at the game: On the Prime Ticket broadcast, they said Troy was rehabbing his injured knee with a Ducks trainer. So it was the trainer who gave Troy the tickets to tonights game. He's apparently spent some time rehabbing with Corey Perry. He told Lindsay Soto that this is his first ever hockey game and that he had no clue who Corey was. He even asked her earlier in the day if Corey was any good.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - The first 20 minutes of action produces just a Kings goal, by Patrick O'Sullivan (I think he's Irish) midway through. The Kings outshoot the Ducks 13-12 in the period.
18:30 - Rob Niedermayer makes a nice feed to Moen in front, but Moen's shot attempt gets caught underneath Ersberg. Moen's try to poke at it is thwarted when he's shoved to the ice from behind.
17:42 - A Beauchemin rocket is saved by Ersberg, but the rebound leaves an open net for Kunitz. But he can't punch it in. Ersberg has left a few of those in front of him already tonight. It will bite him eventually.
15:12 - LAK Penalty - Lubomir Visnovsky
, 2 min. hooking. Selanne does a great job to pick up the puck and skate by Visnovsky down the wing, but when he tries a centering pass on the rush to Bertuzzi, it's knocked away. But Visnovsky gets the hook trying to defend it.
My co-worker reminded me that Polamalu is from Southern California. Okay.
The tennis balls have apparently spawned offspring. There are three more of them behind the goal (young people) on the complete other side of the ice.
13:17 - Hiller makes a pretty glove save on a shot by Kopitar that was screaming toward the left post.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is in the crowd. Um, why?
9:29 - LOS ANGELES GOAL (POWER PLAY) - PATRICK O'SULLIVAN - Hiller makes a nice kick save on a Tom Preissing shot from the slot, but the rebound comes out to Derek Armstrong in front, and he taps it to Patrick O'Sullivan who roofs it on the near side. It's 1-0 Kings as the Ducks get burned for the penalty.
9:04 - Hiller makes a nice stop and hold on a Visnovsky one-timer from the circle.
8:17 - ANA Penalty - Todd Marchant
, 2 min. slashing
Oh Lord. The Kiss Cam sequence ends with a Ducks fan getting on one knee and proposing to his girlfriend, both of them clad in Ducks jerseys. And ... she ... says ... YES!
5:46 - Armstrong takes a quick shot as the puck comes off the back wall right to him in front of the net, but Hiller is right there.
5:30 - Moen drills Visnovsky into the wall just as the Ducks are clearing the zone.
3:11 - ANA Penalty - Samuel Pahlsson, 2 min. holding. Pahlsson grabs on to Kopitar as they head up ice. The Kings spend nearly a minute with a 6 on 5 on the delayed whistle and nearly find the net, but Hiller makes a nice kick stop.
0:40 - Selanne blazes around the net and tries a wraparound, catching Erik Ersberg out of position. Selanne had an opening but missed it wide across the crease.
0:00 - We're underway at Honda Center in the seventh game of the Freeway Face-Off.
7:10 - Great tribute to fallen SWAT officer Randal Simmons, followed by a nice rendition of the anthem by Fullerton police officer Kristen Romero and the honorary puck drop by wounded SWAT officer James Veenstra. Very nice. The anthem was only slightly spoiled by the idiot in the crowd yelling "Kings Suck" during a quiet part. I mean, he's right, but still moronic.
Starting Goaltenders - ANA Jonas Hiller
; LAK Erik Ersberg
Starting Skaters - ANA Francois Beauchemin, Scott Niedermayer, Samuel Pahlsson, Travis Moen, Rob Niedermayer; LAK Anze Kopitar, Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Brown, Kevin Dallman, Tom Preissing
Scratches - ANA Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Corey Perry
, Ryan Getzlaf
, Chris Pronger, Joe DiPenta; LAK Jason LaBarbera, Jack Johnson, Kyle Calder, Scott Thornton