ANAHEIM – The Ducks got a second straight stellar performance from 20-year-old rookie goalie John Gibson, and they leaned on him hard all the way to the end of a Game 5 victory over the Kings.
Anaheim, which held a seemingly comfortable three-goal lead late in the second period, had to fight to the finish to secure a 4-3 victory over LA and take a 3-2 lead in the Battle for SoCal series.
Gibson, who won his playoff debut two nights ago in Los Angeles, was tested more tonight and passed with flying colors. The Kings had 14 shots in each of the three periods (42 total) and were denied in the closing moments while feverishly trying to tie the game.
"I think I got tested more," said the usually tranquil Gibson. "I got more shots, and the guys did a really good job in front of me again. That’s why we’re winning."
With goalie Jonathan Quick sent to the bench for an extra attacker in the final minute, Gibson and the Ducks defense were able to withstand the LA attack. The final clear of the puck with 10 seconds left brought a relieved roar from the overflow crowd of 17,233 at Honda Center.
"We knew they were capable of coming back," Gibson said. "It’s happened before in this series, so we knew what to expect. We just had to get the job done and we found a way."
The Ducks carried a 4-2 lead into the third period, but LA got within a goal with 5:48 left in the game, as a Dustin Brown backhand from the point was tipped through by Marian Gaborik, his second goal of the game. But that was as close as the Kings would get, as the late-game heroics that led to their Game 1 victory were not to be had tonight.
After the Ducks dropped Games 1 and 2, and took Games 3 and 4 at Staples Center, tonight was the first time in the series that the home team won a game. It also marked the 20th time in 21 games of this round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that the team to score first has gone on to win.
Tonight, of course, it was Anaheim that struck first, as Nick Bonino whipped a shot from the left circle past Quick a little more than two minutes into the game. But LA would tie it nearly midway through the period, when Trevor Lewis picked up a loose puck on a bad Anaheim change and wristed a shot past Gibson from the right circle.
The Ducks started to run away with it when they erupted for three unanswered in the second period, the same period that produced zero Anaheim shots two nights ago in Game 4.
The first strike came on the power play 1:11 into the period when Teemu Selanne chased down a Francois Beauchemin dump-in off the end boards, swerved around the back of the net and made a pinpoint feed to Mathieu Perreault for the one-timer. The goal was originally credited to Perreault, but replays showed his shot just barely tipped Devante Smith-Pelly’s toe before darting over the stripe.
A little more than a minute later, the Ducks went up two goals when Ryan Getzlaf picked off an Alec Martinez pass and fed across to Smith-Pelly, who moved to the backhand before flipping the puck past Quick.
Anaheim made it 4-1 at 8:23 of the middle session, as Andrew Cogliano picked up a loose puck and fired from the left wing circle, and Jakob Silfverberg punched in the rebound for his second of the playoffs.
"We got three different lines scoring. We had to," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "It’s something that’s been going on all year. We need that depth to score because sometimes it’s not that difficult to check one line. But when you have four lines with the ability to score, you come out on top."
A four-minute power play stemming from a double-minor for high sticking on Smith-Pelly led to the Kings’ second goal, as Jake Muzzin got the puck to Gaborik, and he one-timed it past Gibson from the slot.
Gaborik, who had that backbreaking tying goal late in Game 1, would strike again in the third, but Gibson made a number of key stops as the Ducks kept LA out of the net the rest of the way.
"I’ve said it earlier, it doesn’t surprise me," said Smith-Pelly, who played a lot this season in front of Gibson down with Norfolk of the AHL. "I’ve seen it all year. He’s doing very well so far, and I know he’s going to continue doing well.
The series shifts back to LA for Game 6, where the Ducks will have a chance to close it out and advance to their first conference final since their Cup run of 2007.
"I have to believe they think they were robbed again tonight," Boudreau said. "They’ll be ready on Wednesday. As far as the strangeness of the series, I can’t explain it. I can explain that to win four games against this team is going to be the toughest job our team has ever had."
Said Smith-Pelly of Game 6, "It’s huge. That’s a pretty good team over there, and we don’t want to give them too many chances to get off the mat. We’re going to be ready for that game, for sure."